September 1, 2010
All eyes on Nazem Kadri
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
This won't be as crazy as the autumn of 2003 when Mats Sundin returned to Stockholm with the Maple Leafs, but Nazem Kadri will be the star attraction next week when the club's rookie tournament opens in London, Ont.
"I'm a London native and I'm pretty excited," the OHL Knights' centre said Wednesday at the Mastercard Centre where he was photographed for his NHL rookie hockey card. "I can't wait to get going. I'm starting to get that itch for hockey now."
The Leafs are playing host to a four-team event with freshmen teams from Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Chicago. Games start Sept. 11 and wrap up Sept. 14 at the John Labatt Centre. Kadri potted 58 assists and 93 points in that rink for the Knights in 2009-10.
Last year, Kadri received plenty of attention going into the rookie event, but the play of collegiate grads Viktor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson became the bigger story and all three saw time in Toronto. Kadri played one game on emergency recall, but this year, the Leafs are in dire need of a centre to step up on the first two lines at the main camp. A good head start in London could propel Kadri here permanently.
He has already looked very poised with the veterans at the summer workouts, testing out his new, improved upper body physique.
"I started at 171 pounds and now I'm probably at 188," he said. "I worked out with my trainer in London then came here and started on the little things such as lower-body strength, protein shakes and eating the right foods five or six times a day.
All my skills are there right now, everything is sharp, it's just the physical aspect now. The more I mature physically, the better it's going to be. That was my focus this summer and I think I'm ready for the NHL now."
The rookie camp will be an ideal test, in that everyone Kadri faces will be going full out to impress general manager Brian Burke, unlike the veteran camp where some warhorses don't need to impress the bosses right away.
"Making the NHL is not a one-step process," Kadri said. "Rookie camp is the first one. It will put me in a great state of mind to be ready for the main camp."
Young Leafs scheduled to join Kadri in London include newly signed goaltenders Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens, defenceman Jesse Blacker, Keith Aulie and Simon Gysbers and forwards Brayden Irwin, Marcel Mueller, Jamie Devane, Ken Ryan and recent draft picks Brad Ross, Greg McKegg, Sam Carrick and Josh Nicholls.
ON WITH THE SJOSTROM: Burke says defensive winger Fredrik Sjostrom is well ahead of schedule and might not will miss any time at training camp as he recovers from a spring shoulder operation.
"He's very close, but we will not rush him," Burke said.
Sjostrom's surgery was April 22 in Cleveland, with a four to six-month rehab projected and spent the summer in Gothenburg, Sweden. He told the local newspaper Expressen that the problem could be traced to the 2009 playoffs when he was with the New York Rangers.
"My left shoulder just popped during a faceoff against Washington and after that it has popped a couple of times," he said. "It just got worse and I had to sit some (Toronto) games at the end of the season because of it."
The injury cost him a trip to the world championships in Germany.