We can (and will) debate the pros and cons of the recent trades that sent Versteeg, Beauchemin and Kaberle away and in return, brought two upcoming first-rounders and two recent first rounders in Jake Gardiner (now signed) and ex-Bruin hopeful now Marlie Joe Colborne.
Those who follow the Marlies more closely than I do have been reporting on Colborne’s noticeable progress—and how he, initially at least, helped Kadri become even more productive at the AHL level.
Colborne is now on his way back from an injury, while the even bigger news is that Kadri has earned another call-up to the big squad.
Before Colborne's injury and the just-announced Kadri promotion, my thought had quietly been: might all these trades (and the influx of new prospects like Gardiner and Colborne to talk about) mean less focus going forward on the previously under-the-microscope development of young Kadri.
We all know the tale of Leaflanders waiting and hoping the last two training camps for Kadri to break through and claim his rightful spot on the roster as Burke’s initial first-round draft choice in his Leaf GM tenure.
That didn’t quite work as many had hoped, though he was given opportunities in pre-season and then earlier this regular season. He has been biding his time with the Marlies, no doubt with an eye on claiming that elusive job with the Leafs come October.
But he hasn't just been waiting and hoping. He has stepped up (by all accounts and from what I have seen when the Marlies are on the tube) the physical part of his game, while still putting up points. Whether he will be a physical guy at the NHL level I don't know, but the guy can play and put up points.
My preference at the very beginning of the season was for him to stay with the Marlies and thrive in a less-pressured environment. (Click here to read my September story.) I'm still not sure why the Leafs felt compelled to call him up when they did earlier this season. The team wasn't scoring at the time and they evidently hoped he might add a spark.
Whatever, we are where we are now. He's back up with the big club. But he has been able to spend more time in the AHL, and presumably work on some things while building his confidence. And he's been able to do it while fans were focusing on the new kid, Colborne.
Here's hoping that one of the, perhaps unforeseen, impacts of all these deals can be less focus and pressure on Kadri, as Leaf supporters now have some other former first-rounders to rest their hopes on, too.
If one of Kadri, Colborne and Gardiner became significant contributors at the NHL level, that’s the least we would expect from Maple Leaf scouts.
If two come through, that will be a significant benefit for the big team. And if all three progress as the brass hopes, that would be a bonus.
There are other youngsters in the wings, of course, like D’Amigo, and the Leafs will likely have at least one pick in the upcoming June draft (they hold two first-rounders at the moment). That will give the Leafs enough high-end prospects in the system to ensure that we don’t place our hopes on any one guy.
And that’s good news for Kadri, whose career has been over-analyzed since the day he was drafted as a member of the OHL London Knights.
Whether it takes one more year or three, if he becomes the kind of player the Leafs have long envisioned, it will have been worth the wait.