Kadri adding some toughness to his game

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

SASKATOON — Nazem Kadri has a nose for the net.

He’s also not afraid to get it dirty.

Kadri, selected seventh overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, scored a pair of goals in Team Canada’s 16-0 destruction of Latvia on Boxing Day.

But the sniper also spent 12 minutes in the penalty box in the world junior opener after being whistled for a head shot.

Kadri said he wanted to prove he’s no one-trick pony.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to show for awhile now,” Kadri said of his physical play.

“I think I’ve always had it in my game. I just didn’t bring it out as often as I am now.

“Us Canadians, that’s how we want to set the tempo of the game. And I know the fans like to see it.”

So will his future boss — Leafs GM Brian Burke.

His current coach, Team Canada bench boss Willie Desjardins, had no problem with Kadri’s hit.

“He played hard,” Desjardins said. “He finished his check hard. I think it’s good to get him involved. We all know he’s a great offensive player and think it’s great that he gives us that other dimension.

“They talk about Mario Lemieux blocking shots in the (2002) Olympics and we have Nazem Kadri playing physical. It just adds to just how much he wants it.”

The 6-foot, 188-pounder said he didn’t feel he deserved a penalty, especially after the Latvian player ducked.

“I caught him around the back of the net with his head down,” he said. “He was in a vulnerable position and I took advantage of it.

“He tried to duck down to get away from it and I think that’s where the argument comes in as to whether it was a head hit or not.”

Kadri, who plays for his hometown London Knights in the OHL, said the questionable infraction won’t make him back off.

“It’s the referee's discretion. I saw in the U.S. game (Saturday night) and there was that one hit that looked pretty innocent to me. Then they kicked the wrong guy out of the game, so you can’t trust them too much,” Kadri said of American forward Tyler Johnson, who was given a high-stick major and a game misconduct during the team’s 7-3 win over Slovakia.

“I’m not going to back off. I’m just going to keep it cleaner.”

Kadri, who leads the Knights with 20 goals and 38 points (to go along with 62 penalty minutes) in 28 games, had an impressive camp with the Leafs this fall.

He said it was a bitter pill to swallow when he was sent back to junior, especially with other 18-year-olds suiting up in the NHL.

“It’s pretty disappointing but I’m past that,” he said. “When I was sent back (to junior) by Toronto, it was a depressing feeling.

“It took me some time to get over it, but it’s completely out of my head now.”

He’s got his mind on another goal right now: Helping Canada secure a record sixth straight world junior gold medal.

“I wouldn’t mind a gold medal in my trophy case.”

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca


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