The Nazem Kadri pilot episode garnered some great ratings yesterday, but Ron Wilson wants to see much more before green lighting a regular series.
With two goals in yesterday’s scrimmage at the MasterCard Centre, including a nifty deke that began with flipping the puck over a checker, first-round draft pick Kadri made a dandy first impression.
“That’s my patented move, my bread and butter,” the London Knights’ centre said with a smile of his dump ’n deke play. “I thought I’d give it a shot up here. The coaches have given me all the freedom to do what I do.”
Coach Wilson was very complimentary, but quick to observe that the veteran Leafs were giving Kadri more respect on ice than a seasoned NHLer would dare.
“Here, they’re looking to be physical, but nice, not trying to hurt anybody,” Wilson said. “It’s different when a game starts and the testosterone level goes up. So let’s wait and see how Nazem does in a real exhibition game.”
That chance will come either tomorrow against the Bruins or soon after, as the Leafs play four consecutive pre-season games. And Kadri will have to dominate as Luke Schenn did on defence last season, which convinced Wilson to give the teen his spurs.
“Same as Luke had to play in the top four D to stay, Nazem would have to be on your first or second line,” Wilson said. “If Brian (Burke) and I decide it’s best for his development, he’ll be here. But he’s a long shot.”
Wilson opined that Mikhail Grabosvki and Matt Stajan are far ahead of Kadri and ruled out stringing Kadri along for up to 10 games while deciding to burn a year of his contract.
“We wouldn’t have kept Luke if he was only going to get 10 minutes a game and (Kadri) is not here to be the checking fourth line centre between Colton Orr and someone else,” Wilson said.
Kadri was ecstatic just to be drafted seventh overall in June, but a few days here has whetted his appetite for the NHL.
“A top-two line guy is something that I want and hopefully, I can crack that roster,” Kadri said. “These guys are a lot stronger, so I have to step it up a notch.”