Kitchener still in Kadri

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Nazem Kadri flashed his trademark grin.

He knew he was being a hypocrite when he said it.

He was asked about the newest London star at the Canadian Hockey League's top prospects game in Oshawa two weeks ago. Kadri stated there was still Generals blood left in John Tavares, but the rest of the Knights would wash it out.

Truth is, there is still some Kitchener blood left in Kadri.

"Once a Ranger, always a Ranger," the 18-year-old Londoner said. "I'll never forget my time in Kitchener, but I know I'm a Knight now."

Kadri waited a long time for this on the OHL calendar: Jan. 27, Knights at Rangers. Eight months ago, Kadri played his final game as a Ranger at the Aud. It was the Memorial Cup final. Spokane 4, Kitchener 1.

All that week, the Knights brass watched his every move.

"We saw him out there playing on a line with (Mikkel) Boedker and (Mike) Duco and we were excited about our team getting a player with that kind of offensive skill," London assistant coach Pat Curcio said.

Kadri was the final piece of the trade that sent goalie Steve Mason to Kitchener. That one didn't work out for the Rangers because the guy who now sports some of the NHL's best numbers hurt his knee in the second round of the OHL playoffs against Sarnia.

The same trade spawned two OHL rule changes. The Mason rule: players can't be swapped during the world juniors. The Kadri rule: teams can't make a trade and then in the offseason get back part of what they moved.

"It's the rule now and (OHL commissioner) David Branch wanted that rule in, so that's the way it is," London GM Mark Hunter said.

But at the time, it was a move Hunter needed to make. Last season, he only had one all-star calibre player. Now, the Knights have five heading to Windsor for the OHL All-Star Classic next week.

Only Phil McRae skated for the Knights last season. Kadri was next on board. Then the Knights picked John Carlson in the second round of the OHL draft. They followed it up by landing Tavares and Michael Del Zotto.

"It wasn't just that (Kitchener) deal," Hunter said. "The A.J. Perry (to Belleville), too. You can't make a trade like that (the Tavares transaction) without all the draft picks."

In London's 6-2 victory over Sudbury on Sunday, all Knights goals were scored by their five all-stars

"But you always like to have depth, too," Mark Hunter said. "We had it. Phil McRae played well for us this year. Phil Varone was having a good year before he got hurt."

The addition of Kadri, Varone and Steve Tarasuk created the proper environment. Then Hunter went out and added the final pieces of the team he expects will challenge for the Memorial Cup.

The Knights are unlikely to head into Kitchener with their best lineup. They have lost three of their last five games and are ravaged by the flu.

"We think we might get Jared Knight and Vladimir Roth back and we're not sure about (Jason Wilson) yet," Curcio said. "It hasn't seemed to get anybody else."

They are bringing along an inspired Kadri, who has 28 points in 15 games since returning from a broken jaw he felt cost him a shot at making the Canadian world junior team. He has proven to be the teammate sharing the most chemistry with Tavares.

"Of course, I'm using (world juniors) as motivation -- I've never been cut from a team in my life," he said. "When you have a guy like John come in, you want to prove you're capable of playing on a line with him and show there's a little bit of instant chemistry."

Kadri saw Tavares make his return to Oshawa after he was traded. He was there when Akim Aliu played once more in London after being dealt back to Sudbury. Now in Kitchener, it's his turn.

He has played the Rangers twice this season, picking up five points in two wins in London. But this at the Aud.

"He'll go in and be professional," Mark Hunter said. "He's a good, character kid. He'll handle it well."

If anybody should want revenge, it should be Varone and Tarasuk. They never got their crack at the Cup last year. Plus, Varone is sporting a few stitches after taking a stick in the face when the clubs met on Jan. 15.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: at Kingston, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday: at Belleville, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday: at Ottawa 2 p.m.

KADRI VS. KITCHENER

Oct. 19

1 goal, 2 assists in 3-1 London victory

Jan. 15

0 goals, 2 assists in 5-2 London win


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