TORONTO– When General Manager Brian Burke experimented with the original development plan of C Nazem Kadri, and brought him up to the big club too early; many hockey minds speculated that it would affect the kid’s career in a negative way.
Instead, Kadri has taken his criticisms from his time with the Leafs and positioned his focus on adding depth to his game.
“I just think I’m a lot stronger on my feet down low, just like in those nitty gritty areas, being able to out muscle bigger guys just by using my body and body positioning. I’ve been working really hard on it,” Kadri stated when asked if he was any different now.
Before his call up, Kadri had scored 14 points (5G 9A) in 14 games for the Marlies. Offensively he looked just as skilled as many young prospects on NHL rosters. However, a lack of scoring and too many neutral zone turnovers in his 17 NHL games made his stay with the Leafs come and go so quickly that many in Toronto haven’t even thought about him since. In fairness it could be because G James Reimer has become the most impactful prospect on radar, but none the less, Kadri is back with the Marlies and is satisfied with where he is at,
“I’m enjoying myself,” Kadri said when asked about his return to the minors. “I’m playing well on a personal stand point and were playing well (from) a team stand point,” he added.
Returning to the Marlies line-up included serving out a two game suspension, which was handed to him before his promotion, and a four game seat in the press box with a lower body injury; but Head Coach Dallas Eakins has still seen enough game play from Kadri to agree he’s improving in the areas requested,
“He’s taking a bigger involvement in the defence part of the game, and this isn’t a thing where we’re looking for him to go bang bodies and play that style of a game. It’s more of we want him to recognize danger in the neutral zone. This kid has been able to stick handle through all kinds of people in junior and here it’s harder.”
When discussing progression, Eakins added,
“He had some trouble early on in the season turning pucks over but he has been so much better. He’s committed to it; he’s looking for direction and we’re trying our best to get him stronger as the season goes on.”
Expanding his game to include the defensive end of the rink, Kadri has not limited himself where he shines best and has scored 15 points (6G 9A) in 16 games since early January.
“At this point, I’m not too worried about that team (Leafs.) I’m playing for the Marlies right now so I’m gonna do whatever I can to help this team win,” Kadri said when asked about a return to the Leafs line-up.
With the perception being that Kadri will indeed finish the year with the Marlies, Eakins encouraged the young gun by commenting that,
“His attitudes been excellent, I like the kid. We have a great relationship.”
With a great attitude, the expansion of defensive play and the natural skills he always had with the puck, Kadri’s demotion has aided in his development; not slowed him down. On the season, he now has 29 points in 30 games, which ties him for second in Marlies scoring in far fewer games played. At any rate, Eakins is fully confident that everything will work out just fine.
“This kids going to be a player. I think we as coaches and management and as fans in the city of Toronto, we just need to have a little patience.”