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Nazem Kadri is Playing the Best Hockey of His Career

Kadri has been a dominant force for the Colorado Avalanche as of late, and the timing couldn't have been better for the pending UFA.
Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri is killin' it.

If you live on the east coast and enjoy going to bed at a reasonable hour, that may be news to you. But after yet another multi-point performance last night, Kadri's early-season production has officially reached the point where it cannot be ignored.

The man is riding a nine-game point streak, for Pete's sake, with 23 points in 15 games. That's a 109-point pace over 82 games, which would absolutely obliterate his career-high of 61, and, perhaps more importantly, earn him a nice chunk of change on the open market.

Oh, yeah, Kadri is a free agent at year's end. That's right, he's doing this in a contract year at age 31, setting himself up nicely for what is likely the final opportunity to truly cash in on a long-term deal while in his prime.

Talk about timing.

Look, it's unlikely that Kadri woke up this season a 100-point player after spending the 12 in the 50-60 range. But that doesn't mean he's in for a significant regression, either.

Kadri isn't riding some unsustainable shooting bender. The former-Leaf is shooting 13.6% on the season, just a smidge above his 11.3% career average and lower than the 15.2% he shot in 2017-18, when he netted 32 goals.

A slight dip could be in order, sure. Or this could simply be Kadri regressing back to his normal self after the 2021 season saw him shoot a mere 6%, with which he still managed to net 11 goals in 56 games.

Kadri's specific usage hasn't changed much, either. He's not being propped up by favorable zone starts or sheltered minutes, with Avalanche coach Jared Bednar starting Kadri in the offensive zone on 55.1% of his shifts thus far, slightly below the 55.6% OZS% he saw last season, and roughly on par with the 52.9% he logged from 2018-2020.

At even strength, in fact, that number dips significantly, with Kadri starting just 50% of his 5v5 shifts in the opposing end compared to 56.89% and 54.89% in his prior two seasons in Colorado.

Kadri's usage hasn't changed drastically. Rather, his ice time has.

Kadri has seen his workload increase by nearly two extra minutes per night this season compared to last, giving him an average TOI of 18:29. Naturally, when a player is used more, their production tends to follow. But Kadri's explosion isn't simply the result of more canvas upon which to paint. He's miraculously become more efficient than ever with his inflated workload, in fact, scoring at a points-per-60-minutes rate of four in 2021 that nearly doubles that of any prior campaign dating back to 2013.

This isn't a player coasting along on secondary assists or power-play usage.

The bulk of Kadri's assists this season have been primary, with his 2.5 primary assists per-60-minutes dwarfing any prior total he's ever produced at the NHL level, all while his goals-per-60 have largely remained the same.

Not to mention, Kadri has remained an effective player in all situations this season, with four of his six goals coming at even-strength, along with 11 of his 17 assists. And while those numbers paint Kadri as an effective 5v5 player, they don't diminish his standing as a power-play weapon, either, with eight points in 15 games on the man advantage.

Simply put, Kadri is producing offense at a higher clip than he ever has, in more ice time than he's ever logged. And that combination has produced some explosive results thus far.

So, while Kadri may ultimately not be capable of achieving the gargantuan point totals that his current pace has him headed towards, they aren't completely unreasonable, either. None of his underlying numbers suggest that he's in for a dramatic crash. Kadri is just, well, good. Like, really, really good.

Such is the magic of the contract year.


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