If you spend time hanging around Twitter, you've probably heard someone say that Nazem Kadri has had a pretty lucky season. The 22-year old former 7th overall pick has been plugging along at roughly a point per game pace most of the season -- he's sitting at 41 points in 42 games right now -- and has put to bed any fear that he may not have the chops to skate in the top-6.
Anyone who watches the games can tell that Kadri is a dynamic offensive player. He creates chances more consistently than any Leaf forward aside from Phil Kessel, and he's done it while often carrying 6'3", 205 lbs gorilla-winger Colton Orr on his back.
That said, when you look at the numbers, it's clear that things have been going Kadri's way more often than we should reasonably expect.
As things stand today, Kadri's on-ice shooting percentage is a remarkable 14.98 percent which is tops in the league among forwards who have played more than 20 games. Now, while there is some evidence to suggest that on-ice shooting percentage can be sustained at high levels and has predictive value (I'll point you to this post from David Johnson at Hockey Analysis) I would suggest that this season's sample is too small to expect Kadri to definitively be the type of guy who can impact a line's shooting percentage in such a significant way. By way of illustration, I'd point to last season's 9.17 percent in 21 games (7th among Leafs forwards).
What mean should we be expecting Kadri to regress to exactly? Well, I would certainly say that Kadri is an improved player from the Nazem Kadri we saw last season. The challenge is that so few players post an on-ice shooting percentage of over 11 percent (only 22 last year). Is Kadri the kind of talent we can expect to do this on a regular basis? I'm a bit of a homer but personally, I think he can be close.
What effect would an 11 percent on-ice shooting percentage have on Kadri's numbers? Well, his 41 points would turn into just over 30 points on the year, which would translate to about 59 points in an 82 game season. This may surprise many of you but those are still awfully impressive numbers. I think a lot of us are guilty of talking about point per game players as if they grow on trees but the truth is, there aren't many of them out there. Last year, there were 72 players who registered a 0.7 point per game rate over 70 or more games, meaning that if Kadri were to produce at that level, he'd be giving us first-line production (top-90).
So that's a cursory attempt to control for Kadri's luck this year, but what about some of the drags on his production? First of all, Kadri is 5th among Leafs forwards in powerplay icetime per game. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know how crazy I think this is. Kadri, to my way of thinking, could be the best powerplay forward on the team if given the opportunity. He has the kind of close-quarters puck skills that thrive with the time to set up and plan your attack and his playmaking is right on par with Kessel's.
If we gave Kadri the :45 second per game disparity between himself and Bozak then what would that do to his point totals? Well, 45 seconds represents 37.5% of each individual powerplay, assuming no goal is scored and the powerplay isn't interrupted by other infractions. Over the course of an 82-game season, Bozak is robbing Kadri of 30.75 full 2-minute powerplays which means, if we control for shortened powerplays when goals are scored, Kadri is off the ice when 6 powerplay goals are scored (at the Leafs' current efficiency rate of 18.1%). Does that mean Kadri would get a point on all 6 of those goals? Of course not. I think it's reasonable to say that he's probably suffering a 4-point production dip because of it though. This puts Kadri at 63 points.
Kadri is also 6th on the Leafs in time on ice per game at 16 minutes. I would suggest that the sweet spot for Kadri is somewhere between that number and the 20 minutes a night that Bozak is currently getting. If we grant Kadri the :45 seconds of extra powerplay icetime then that leaves an additional 1:15 at even strength. Suddenly, Kadri's 59-point projection has been inflated to roughly 67 points in an 82 game season between extra powerplay time and a boost to his even strength minutes.
Finally, there's the one thing that's nearly impossible to account for which is the possibility of Kadri skating with Kessel. On the surface, the two seem to be a match made in heaven. Both have exceptional offensive instincts and Kadri drives possession in the right direction in a way Kessel has only been able to dream of since suiting up for the Leafs. What improvement in production would we expect from both of these players if they were slotted on the same line? Look at what Kessel did to Lupul's numbers. Heck, look at what he's done with Bozak's. It would be pure conjecture for me to guess at a number but I will say that I'd be reasonably confident that Kessel would eclipse his 82-point total from last season.
So there you have it. My projection for Kadri on a go-forward basis would be ~67 points in a full 82 game season if he were deployed properly. That may seem like a modest projection when looking at his current points per game in isolation but there aren't many players who put up those kinds of totals. Kadri has exceeded the expectations of many and looks to be well on his way to being a first line player in the NHL.