London calling Kadri

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Nazem Kadri's time will come with the Maple Leafs, but it wasn't going to be yesterday or the rest of this season.

The exciting first-round pick took one more walk out of the dressing room where he has had a memorable month, to meet the media after getting the expected news he'll spend 2009-10 with the London Knights on the OHL.

Right winger Christian Hanson and defencemen Jonas Frogren were demoted to the Marlies yesterday, with defenceman Andy Rogers released from his tryout. Coach Ron Wilson would not confirm Jason Allison's tryout has also ended, but he was not scheduled to join the team in its bonding trip to Huntsville after last night's game.

The call on Kadri wasn't easy for Wilson after the centre had five points in six games and Kadri put up a brave front to hide his disappointment when the TV lights came on. Yet with Kadri not fully in shape for 82 NHL games and needing to work on his defence, both realized it's for the best.

"We don't want him to be a 50 or 60-point scorer here, we want him to be a 100-point scorer," Wilson said. "Sometimes the only way to do that is to learn how to at your own level with your peers, be a leader and come back ready next year.

"Nazem is going to be a superstar in this league, we honestly believe that. But we want him to go back to the OHL and absolutely dominate.

"All the things I would have said to him, he told me he had to work on, getting stronger and fitter. He was shocked that guys work out here after games, which doesn't happen in junior. He'll take a lot of positives out of this."

Kadri would've had to beat out Mikahil Grabovski and Matt Stajan for first or second-line jobs and Wilson was giving those two a lot of rope after their career years in '08-09. Nor did Wilson see the point in giving Kadri a maximum nine-game trial before sending him back.

"I support the decision," Kadri said. "I think I'm just going to bring the confidence I had from this camp and the pre-season and carry it right back to junior. (Camp) was unbelievable. Everyone had some doubts for me coming in and I think I proved a lot of people wrong and opened some eyes.

"This was one of the better times in my life, being able to play for the Maple Leafs in this barn is definitely a special thing. It's definitely where I want to be in the near future."

Wilson is putting trust in Knights coach Dale Hunter.

"I coached Dale in Washington for two or three years, I know what he's all about and I know how much he loves Nazem," Wilson said. "He'll make him even a better player. It will be a great year for him, to try and win a Memorial Cup or a gold medal (with the Team Canada juniors)."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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