SUN Hockey Pool

Leafs pick Kadri draws jeers in Mtl.

Mike Zeisberger, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:14 AM ET

MONTREAL- First, they booed the announcement that the hated Maple Leafs were about to make their selection.

That was followed by a deafening jeer when Toronto general manager Brian Burke announced the name of Nazem Kadri as the Leafs' first pick- seventh overall off the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights- in the 2009 NHL entry draft at the Bell Centre last night.

If Kadri ever doubted how much the rival Leafs are despised here in Habs Land, he certainly got a first-hand education on that front last night.

Ironically, Kadri grew up a huge Canadiens fans. Sorry about your luck, kid.

"I guess I got a real warm welcome here in Montreal, didn't I?" Kadri said, grinning ear-to-ear just minutes after donning a blue and white Leafs jersey for the first time. "Yeah, I was a diehard (Habs) fan when I was growing up, but today, I found a new favourite team.

"No worries."

"Obviously, you can't do much about (the jeers), but I usually thrive off the booing. So, no worries." Kadri, a native of London, scored 25 goals and added 53 assists in just 56 games a year ago, missing part of the season with a broken jaw. He is also a dangerous penalty-killer, having led the OHL with 10 shorthanded goals.

"We really like him," Burke said. "He's got good offensive skills and he has a bit of feistiness, too." On the ice, he hopes to make the Leafs next season, although Burke feels that might be a stretch.

Off the ice, he hopes to have an impact too, given his Lebanese background.

"I don't think there are any (Lebanese) playing in the NHL right now," Kadri said. "I feel I can be a role model in that sense. That's important to me.

"When kids look up to you, it makes you feel a lot better about yourself." Kadri comes from a huge clan, estimating there are about "40 in my immediate family." With that many kin folk on hand, it will cost him a small fortune to buy ducats for home games at the Air Canada Centre.

He doesn't care. He is thrilled to be a Leaf.

"It's amazing," Kadri said. "There are a lot of Leafs fans in London, so I know how passionate people are about the team. I think I'll be able to handle being under the microscope." Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, who coached Kadri during his time with the Kitchener Rangers, raved about the young centre.

"He is one of the most special kids I¹ve ever coached," DeBoer said last night, high praise, considering the likes of Mike Richards and Derek Roy also played for DeBoer in Kitchener.

Kadri does not lack confidence, showing a bit of the swagger sported by his new general manager, Burke.

"Hopefully, when I get some experience under my belt I can become an impact player," Kadri said.

"I think I can be."


Videos

Photos