Leafs Nation crazy for 'Kid'

JOE WARMINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

BUFFALO -- "If you put Nazem Kadri between Niklas Hagman and Phil Kessel, look out!"

-- AM 640's Bill Watters

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Some 48 hours after the "shootout spectacular" by Leafs prospect Nazem "Kid" Kadri, Leafs Nation is still buzzing about a kid born 23 years after the Buds last won a Stanley Cup.

Any suggestion the Leafs have a chance for a top scoring line for the future has long-suffering members of Leafs Nation standing up to pay attention.

And just about everybody has an opinion on the hottest topic among fans these days -- as photographer Jack Boland and I heard on the way to Buffalo on former Leafs executive Bill Watters' program with Greg Brady on AM 640.

"I thought he made the team last night (with that shootout goal)," Brady said. "I don't know how you send him back."

Watters agreed, saying if the goal is to be in the top six forwards during the pre-season, Kadri has accomplished that.

"Look at the excitement he brings ... For me they are looking for excuses and if they are, he is going down. But he is putting forward a blunt object to knock those excuses down."

What do you think? Should the kid, who deked Pittsburgh Penguins goalie John Curry out of his jockstrap Tuesday night, make this team and knock out a veteran?

Or should he be sent back to the OHL's London Knights?

The debate rages on.

Certainly Kadri's highlight reel of goals, perfect passes, the creativity he showed on an assist of John Mitchell's goal in the third period, calmness and slickness on the ice have caught Leafs management's eye.

You'd think the biggest debate in Buffalo would be on America's health-care battle.

But since the half-empty arena seemed to have even more Leafs fans than Sabres, the talk was Kadri.

"That was the nicest goal in years by a Maple Leaf and he deserves to make this team," declares Andrea Spurr. But fellow Niagara Falls Leafs fan Robert D'Amico isn't so sure he's ready.

A lot of debate like that among fans.

"He's fantastic and he's the future, but why rush him," says Jeff Zammit.

But his 12-year-old daughter, Emma, wants "him to stay."

Same goes for Kevin Bonn, of Kitchener, who says that as a "Rangers fan, anything that would keep him out of the London Knights' lineup would be OK with me."

Rob McLellan wants the kid to crack the lineup and says if he does, he may finally do something he hasn't done since 1992: Buy a new Leafs sweater.

"I love my Dougie Gilmour sweater," he says as he proudly wore his No. 93. "I haven't found another player I wanted to replace it with."

Could that 93 soon be changed for No. 43?

Now that's a lot of pressure to put on this rookie, which is why it seems veteran coach Ron Wilson is slowing this excitement down some.

"I only have spots for 23 players," he told reporters. "Have (any of the young players) stolen anyone's job? Not in my estimation."

TMLFANS.ca's Rob Del Mundo agrees with Wilson's approach.

"No way," he says on Kadri being in that opening game Oct. 1 vs. Montreal. "He should go back to junior and not be rushed. Kadri needs to bulk up. He's only 175-180 (pounds) and he'll get banged around. There is no way he could last for 82 games. At least not yet."

But fan Barry Godin says: "The Leafs talk about Kadri being underweight and young at 18 for the NHL. I know he's not Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr, but didn't they jump in at a young age?

"They could put him on a line with a good passer and a big forward to protect him. He is a slick player who can only get better."

What do you think? Go to our online poll and let us know. Whichever way you feel, it's just great to be talking hockey again and talking about something positive concerning the Toronto Maple Leafs!

JOE.WARMINGTON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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