Kadri eager for second chance

When the roster for the world juniors selection camp is announced today, Nazem Kadri hopes he is...

When the roster for the world juniors selection camp is announced today, Nazem Kadri hopes he is among the players chosen to attend. (Sun Media file photo)

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Nazem Kadri wants another shot.

The London Knights star and Toronto Maple Leafs first rounder was cut from the Canadian world junior team last year. He suffered a broken jaw in an OHL game before Hockey Canada's selection camp and that hindered his ability to impress head coach Pat Quinn and Co.

"The timing of it (the injury) was terrible," the 19-year-old Londoner said. "With the jaw, I didn't play in a game for three or four weeks leading up to the camp. I felt sluggish and slow out there. It was hard to keep up.

"It would've been great to be on that team, but it was tough to watch. It was in Ottawa, our nation's capital, and I wanted to be a part of it."

This year's tournament is in Saskatoon and Regina.

Today, Hockey Canada will announce its roster for the team's selection camp running Dec. 12-16 at Regina.

Kadri left a good final impression.

He undressed a Russian defender for a spectacular short-handed goal in the third period of the OHL team's final Subway Super Series game in Windsor last week.

Knights teammate Zac Rinaldo called it simply "a hard-working goal."

"I wanted to show that I'm capable of playing in any situation and that I'll do whatever it takes to be on the roster," the six-foot, 167-pound Kadri said. "Put me on any line (even in a checking role) and I'll try to work my way up.

"I've wanted to play on that team since I was a little kid."

This has been a strange season for Kadri.

He scored and played well enough with the Leafs during NHL exhibitions that many, including Don Cherry, felt he should've broke camp with the big club.

But the Leafs declared him unprepared for the rigours of an NHL season and sent him back to London "to score 100 points."

He got off to a slow start with the Knights and is nowhere to be found among the league's leaders. But with a strong offensive showing the last few weeks, Kadri has become London's lone player producing at over a point-per-game rate (15 goals, 28 points in 24 games).

"I knew the points would come," he said. "I didn't worry about that. I knew if I played the game the right way, it would work out."

He has been focused lately on leading the Knights, not on the lure of Toronto.

He hasn't been worried about which games Hockey Canada's scouts have seen him.

"They stay in the rough," he said. "You don't hear from them. You know they're going to be watching so you approach every game that way and play it to the best of your abilities."

Kadri has already been in a Memorial Cup final with Kitchener.

He was a top player for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament a few years ago.

He played in the epic five-overtime OHL Western Conference final against Windsor last spring.

The only thing left at this level is what he wants most: the world junior test.

"If I'm lucky enough to get an invite again, I'm going to do my best to make that team," he said. "I know what it's about."

And this time, he's healthy.

He's also rooting for linemate Phil McRae (eight goals, 26 points in 26 games) to crack the United States roster. The St. Louis Blues prospect wasn't invited last year.

"I hope Phil makes the American team," Kadri said. "And (fellow Knight) Zac Rinaldo, I hope, gets the call for Canada."

The Canadian world juniors will sport green jerseys in a couple of games at this year's tournament. That green would happily substitute for the kelly green third jerseys Kadri wore with the Knights last season before the club altered their sweaters.

"I'm a guy who likes when organizations change up their look every now and then," he said. "I'm OK with green."


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