Entering play on Tuesday, Nazem Kadri had just one goal in 14 games, a paltry total that suggests it could be a long season for him. Adding in his five assists, Kadri’s box car stats look pedestrian at best. But hiss new head coach Mike Babcock has been regularly heaping praise upon his Canadian-born forward. And, doing digging beyond his box score stats shows Babcock’s praise is justified and a breakout is coming soon.
Kadri’s 54.55 percent shot attempt percentage currently sits 3rd among the 10 Leafs forwards who have played at least 100 5v5 minutes. His +5 percent relative shot attempt percentage also ranks third among the group and suggests that he is driving play when he’s on the ice and that his team is better off with him out there rather than on the bench.
However, with just one goal, Kadri will continue to have his critics. But a major breakout is all but assured if he continues to play the way he has so far. One thing that essentially guarantees Kadri will find the net soon, and regularly, is how much he’s shooting the puck. Entering this season, he averaged 2.04 shots per game over 250 career games. So far this season, Kadri is absolutely obliterating his career mark, taking 4.28 shots per game in 2015-16.
Kadri was a 12.5 percent shooter coming into the season. If he averages 4.28 shots per game over his team’s final 68 games, and shoots at his career rate, Kadri will score 36 goals the rest of the way. Now, He may not score 36 more times, totaling 37 on the season, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that, if he remains healthy, he will set a career-high in goals. His current career high is 20, set in 2013-14.
Before anointing this as a career year for a player who currently has one goal, it would be helpful to make sure Kadri’s scoring chances haven’t declined or that he isn’t taking shots from a much greater distance.
One way to do this is to look at his average shot distance. According to Sporting Charts, his average shot distance in his career is 28.59 feet. This season his average shot distance is a nearly 28.68 feet, so it’s not as if Kadri is all of the sudden playing more on the perimeter.
Another way to look at this is Kadri’s individual scoring chance rate. Here’s a look at his career scoring chances per game, as well as his rates in 2014-15, and 2015-16.
Kadri’s individual scoring chances rate stands at 4.07 chances per game in 2015-16, a nearly 40 percent increase over his per game career average entering 2015-16.
Entering Toronto’s game against the Stars on Tuesday, Kadri has just one goal. But his play has been strong and it’s been rightfully recognized by his coach. If he is able to stay healthy, he’ll set a career high in goals this season.