In a summer of speculation, there was a consensus. Professional analysts and casual fans alike had Nazem Kadri firmly placed on the third line. Brian Burke recently stated otherwise, suggesting that all of Kadri, Joe Colborne, Philippe Dupuis and Matt Frattin are under consideration. Here’s why:
Joe Colborne is slated as a centre but suited to the wing. His six-foot-five frame would add valuable size to the third line.
Matt Frattin impressed during the last game of the 2010/2011 season and was one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top performer.
The downside for both of these players is the lack of NHL experience.
Nazem Kadri and Philippe Dupuis don’t have that problem.
Dupuis played 74 games with the Avalanche last season. Kadri played 29 with the Leafs.
Dupuis is talented enough to compete for a third line spot, but his checking skills are better suited to the fourth line centre position.
Kadri has NHL minutes, but may still lack is physical presence needed for NHL play – physical presence that Colborne, Dupuis and Frattin display.
It’s a dilemma that Burke is regarding as an opportunity. Competition will make the team better.
Unless something miraculous happens, Kadri will get the call. He has experience, has been displaying the necessary improvements and has been under Leafs’ development the longest.
For better or worse, it’s his time.