Highly-touted ice hockey prospect Nazem Kadri was primed to make the Toronto Maple Leafs roster after a year of minor league seasoning. However, he struggled in Torontoâ€™s training camp much of September and was finally told this week that he would not be part of the big club at the start of the season and would have to start the season playing for Torontoâ€™s affiliate in the American Hockey League. The Lebanese-Canadian has tried to take the demotion in stride.
â€œI took it very positively I think,â€ Kadri told The Hockey News. â€œI had a meeting with [ General Manager Brian Burke and Head Coach Ron Wilson] and they basically just told me to keep my head up, keep doing what Iâ€™m doing. That Iâ€™m not quite ready just yet, which is understandable. Burke also told me he had the same speech with Ryan Getzlaf four years ago, so that was pretty motivating for me,â€ said Kadri. â€œIâ€™m just going to take it day by day, practice by practice and see how things go.â€
â€œI think Nazem has accepted whatâ€™s gone on here, that heâ€™s made his own bed,â€ said Burke told The Hockey News. â€œHeâ€™s been very mature about it. I think heâ€™s been wonderful with you folks (the media), dealing with all this stuff. And if I could go back to the draft and you give me the microphone again, I would take Nazem Kadri again. I told him that this morning. We believe in Nazem as a hockey player and a person, heâ€™s going to be fine. Heâ€™s not ready to play in the top six [forwards] right just yet.â€
Kadri was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, so he comes with a high pedigree. But he turns 20 years of age only this week, so he is still quite green and should have plenty of time to get up to NHL speed. He remains right on the doorstep of the NHL. As a matter of fact, Torontoâ€™s AHL affiliate is the Toronto Marlies, so he will remain in the very same city. Inshallah he will only be a quick phone call away from his big opportunity.