Kadri has yet to light it up

Kadri showed a little more jump than he did in the pre-season opener, including a goal off of one...

Kadri showed a little more jump than he did in the pre-season opener, including a goal off of one of those toe-drag moves that so often got the fans out of their seats in London. (Stan Behal/QMI AGENCY)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:35 PM ET

It is his hometown rink and the place where he shone as a junior, so there have been many memorable nights at the John Labatt Centre for Nazem Kadri.

It's only the NHL pre-season, but the talented Maple Leafs rookie could use another big one Thursday night to infuse some life into what thus far has been a flat training camp.

By his own admission, Kadri has yet to light it up like he did a year ago as he fights to land a starting job at centre for coach Ron Wilson's club.

"I think I've played pretty well, but I've definitely got a lot more in me," Kadri said Wednesday at the Mastercard Centre where 12 hours after playing in a listless 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators he was back on the ice for a high-tempo 80-minute scrimmage.

Kadri showed a little more jump than he did in the pre-season opener, including a goal off of one of those toe-drag moves that so often got the fans out of their seats in London.

Last season, the 2009 first-round pick scored 35 goals and 58 assists in 56 games with the Ontario Hockey League Knights.

On Thursday, he'll get a chance to do it again when he's part of a group of Leafs who will face the Philadelphia Flyers.

The hip flexor that kept him out of one game at the team's rookie tournament earlier this month hasn't been a factor.

Kadri said he has had to be more diligent about stretching before skating, but that's the extent of it.

"I think I'm just getting my feet wet right now," Kadri said.

"I'm getting progressively better. Training camp is not a sprint. I don't have to dominate in the first one. There's still lots of time to prove what you've got."

Gettin' Down with Brown

From the handlebar moustache, to energy on the penalty kill, to the fact he's willing to go up a weight class or two in a scrap, Mike Brown is making a strong first impression with his new team.

The Illinois native certainly stood out in the pre-season opener, hardly a difficult task given the way the night unfolded.

The highlight was taking on Ottawa's Tim Spencer, who has a good four inches and 10 or more pounds on Brown.

Not that he's afraid of taking on a heavyweight if duty calls.

"That's what we have Colton Orr for," said Brown, who figures he'd be listed as a middleweight among NHL scrappers.

"But if I need to and the time is right, I'll be there. I think I've probably fought every weight class.

"I'll be more of a grinder out there, going in and stirring the pot a little bit."

The more tangible benefit of Brown's style is that he could be a big help to a penalty-killing unit that was worst in the league last season.

"He has got the work ethic, which everybody can see, but he has got the speed, which is huge," Leafs assistant coach Rob Zettler said.

"He's not afraid to sacrifice himself with the body and getting in shooting lanes.

"He's a fun player to watch.

"You get with guys like that who have to work hard to get in the league and that's what they give you every single night.

"That's why he's here."

The slow cut

Across Canada, major junior hockey coaches are anxious to get their hands on players at NHL camps who have no hope sticking with the pro club that drafted them.

The Leafs have more than a handful of such prospects among the 64 trying out.

The team has no plan to rush cuts, however, even with junior seasons starting on Friday.

"Some of (the junior coaches) are getting anxious, however this is a great experience for any young kid," Leafs director of player development, Jim Hughes said.

"You can't buy this experience, you can't buy this time.

"Every day these young players get to stay here is to their benefit.

"They should use that time to be a sponge."

The Leafs would like to be down to roughly 25 bodies by Sunday following their fifth pre-season game in five nights.

"We'll probably end up meeting after these five games and figure out how we want to move forward as far as numbers," Zettler said.

"The last three or four games, we want to make sure we are close to our (opening night) lineup."

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com: longleysunsport


Videos

Photos