While the NHL season may only be 7 games old for the Toronto Maple Leafs, one guy is catching everyone by surprise. Nazem Kadri is the Leafs leading point getter through the first 7 games, with 3 goals and 4 assists for a point per game pace. That marks his 21 game total from last season. It was clear from game 1 against the Canadiens, after scoring his first goal of the season on the Power Play from Mike Kostka, that Nazem was NHL ready. The Leafs 2009 first round pick has shown he can win faceoffs, draw penalties, score goals and make clutch passes when he needs to. In his previews three stints with the maple leafs, Kadri managed only 19 points in 51 games. With the Marlies however he has garnered 81 points in 92 games. While many people have doubted him in the past it is clear that Kadri’s tenure in the AHL has paid dividends for the young prospect’s NHL career.
Kadri isn’t the only young forward helping out the Leafs. When Joffrey Lupul went down, many fans in Leaf Nation had a sour taste in their mouths. In his first game under his new contract, the assistant captain sustained a fractured arm after being it with a Dion Phaneuf blast from the point. The next day, Matt Frattin was called up from the Toronto Marlies. In his first game up in the bigs, Frattin scored a goal and tallied two assists in a 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders. In his three games since, he has 3 goals including game winning goals in the Leaf’s wins over the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals. In just 4 games he has already earned a total of 6 points and it appears nothing can stop him.
Finally, the third player to catch the attention of Leafs fans has been Mike Kostka. The 27-year-old defenceman from Ajax, Ontario is putting up huge minutes for the Leafs. In his 34 game stint with the Toronto Marlies during the lockout, Kostka had 6 goals, 28 assists and a +7 rating. In the Leafs first game of the season, Kostka assisted on Nazem Kadri’s power play goal. In his first seven games, Kostka has 4 assists and is averaging just over 24 minutes of ice time. He has proved he is capable of playing between 20 and 30 minutes a game. As an AHL player, Kostka has garnered 31 goals, 119 assists for 150 points in 307 games. He has played for the Toronto Marlies, Norfolk Admirals, Portland Pirates, Rochester Americans and San Antonio Rampage. He is most known for his fluke overtime goal in game 3 of the Calder Cup Final. Ironically, the goal was scored against the Toronto Marlies. He was trying to dump the puck in to the Marlies zone when it took an odd bounce off a stanchion and in to the net behind Ben Scrivens.
While these aren’t the only Marlies players who are turning heads for the Maple Leafs, it is evident that if Toronto is going to succeed they will need some help from their young. In this shortened NHL campaign the Leafs are looking for their first playoff berth since the 2003-04 season.
Clayton Theriault is a 20-year-old student from Oakville, Ontario, Canada. He is currently in the process of obtaining his print journalism diploma at Sheridan College. He is currently an at-large writer for The Hockey Writers.