TORONTO- Heading into his third pro season, since being drafted seventh overall in 2009, forward Nazem Kadri is hoping thata training camp with Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is what he needs to finally crack the big club full time.
In his first two seasons as a member of the Leafs organization, the 21-year-old had six call-ups from their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies but never managed to stick around, each time being demoted back down for various reasons.
The first five NHL appearances came under former bench boss Ron Wilson while his sixth promotion came late last season under Carlyle. Despite only suiting up in two games for Carlyle, Kadri felt a connection with his new coach and even admitted that Carlyle wanted to keep him longer if he had his choice.
“Just the couple games I was up there he showed a lot of faith in me, putting me out last minutes of periods in games,” said Kadri. “And he has the confidence in me. He would have liked to keep me up if they didn’t have that rule.”
The rule Kadri speaks of is the emergency recall rule set in place for after the NHL trade deadline passes.
After the trade deadline on February 27th, 2012 passed, the Leafs were only allowed to recall four players before all other summoned players fell into emergency recall criteria.
On the day of March 6th, the Leafs sent Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin and Jay Rosehill to the Marlies so that their names could be added to the AHL clear-day playoff rosters. That same night each of the three were recalled and suited up for the Leafs to face Boston in a contest that had Joffrey Lupul separate his shoulder.
March 7th Toronto used its fourth, and final, recall on Carter Ashton to replace Lupul, who at the time was listed as out for three to four weeks.
Kadri, along with Ryan Hamilton were called up on March 23rd to replace Matt Frattin and Clarke MacArthur, who were listed as day-to-day. Brought up as “emergency recalls” both players, by rules, had to go back to the Marlies when Frattin and MacArthur returned to the line-up. Because of this, Kadri’s try-out with the new coach lasted only two games. However, in his debut for Carlyle he left an impression after scoring once in regulation and another in the shootout as Toronto beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3.
“He came up to me when I was going back to the Marlies and apologized and said he didn’t really know until then that I was even going down,” said Kadri. “It wasn’t even up to him.”
On March 30th Kadri joined the Marlies and scored two goals in a 5-4 win against the Rochester Americans.
He then went on to average a point-per-game for the Marlies through their Calder Cup run until he, too, injured his shoulder and had his season come to a close.
Having spent the summer training with former Leaf Gary Roberts, and expecting to be fully recovered for this September’s training camp, Kadri is excited for the change that comes under Carlyle and considers him a second chance to crack the Leafs.
“It’s a clean slate and, even though the past couple years I’ve worked hard and (still) doing everything I can to stick with the big club, Randy’s bringing a different element and I know he likes responsible players,” said Kadri. “And that’s something I felt like I’ve become; pretty responsible forward. I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve matured, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.”