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Kadri doing fine no matter who he plays with

Tuesday, 03.10.2009 / 10:20 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Playing well with others -- it's something preschool teachers work on with their students.

It also applies to hockey players, and Nazem Kadri is a prime example of that.

The London Knights forward spent the first half of the season centering the team's top line and being the team's offensive leader. That all changed, though, on Jan. 8, when the Knights acquired John Tavares, the top prospect for the 2009 Entry Draft.

Suddenly there was a new first-line center and a new offensively gifted superstar.

How would Kadri adjust? Just fine, thank you.

"The guy's a world-class player," Kadri said of Tavares. "To have him on my line just makes things a whole lot better."

The numbers bear that out. Of Tavares' 32 goals in his first 23 games with the Knights, Kadri assisted on 12 of them, and London has gone 17-8-1-1 since the trade.

Tavares certainly has enjoyed the experience.

"Naz is a guy who brings a lot of skill," Tavares told NHL.com. "He's a guy who handles the puck really well and sees the ice really well, as well. He's able to find the open guys when it seems like everyone is covered and there's not much area to put the puck in. If he's got to put it through a few skates or a few sticks, he always seems to get it there. He's a solid two-way guy who's got the experience and what it takes to be a winner."

"(Kadri) is going to get more exposure (playing with Tavares)," said an NHL scout. "It can work for him as long as he takes his game to another level with John. If he can play all three forward positions, the coach has a lot more versatility with you in the lineup."

Rather than worry about a loss of ice time, Kadri has subscribed to the team-first theory.

"I just want to get to the Memorial Cup this year," Kadri told NHL.com. "Acquiring Johnny is going to help us do that. If I have to play left wing, right wing, defense, anything -- I just want to do whatever I can to help my team win."

London got to be in a position to acquire Tavares -- with 97 points they have the second-best record in the OHL -- thanks in part to Kadri's play. Despite missing a month with a broken jaw, Kadri's 51 assists and 76 points are second on team.

The injury, though, came at about the worst time. Kadri and Tavares were the only two 2009 draft-eligible players invited to Canada's junior evaluation camp over the summer, but because of the injury, he was left off the team.

"It was a bit of minus, happened at a bad time with World Juniors and everything, but it's adversity and every hockey player has to go through that," said Kadri. "But right now it's 100 percent."

What helped was some home cooking for the London, Ont., native -- well, more like home shaking.

"The scheduled weight for me to lose was 10-15 pounds, but I only lost five," said Kadri. "My mom had me pounding the shakes back."

Whatever he did worked, as he gained back the weight without losing much in the eyes of the scouts. He was ranked 11th among North American skaters for the 2009 Entry Draft in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings. He also earned an invitation to the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game, where he continued to impress.

"He's big, lanky and skilled," said NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire. "He uses his size to accentuate his puck skills. Size, reach, stickhandling ability, those long kinds of stick movements that Mario (Lemieux) used to make, like (Vincent) Lecavalier makes."

Kadri likes the Lecavalier comparison.

"Vincent Lecavalier I think is a great hockey player, great leader, great goal scorer," said Kadri. "He does everything. He's a complete player. I do my best to model my play after him."

"He's got some of the best hands in the Ontario Hockey League, if not the CHL. He's always a threat on the ice to score. He's really a man you have to look out for whenever you're on against him."
-- Guelph Storm forward Peter Holland

His peers certainly have noticed.

"Kadri has got real good hands," said Saginaw Spirit goalie Edward Pasquale, Central Scouting's top-rated North American goaltender. "Playing in the same (OHL) conference we see him four times a year. You just have to make sure he doesn't get too many goals on you."

"He's got unbelievable skill," added Guelph Storm forward Peter Holland, the No. 9 skater on Central Scouting's midterm rankings. "He's got some of the best hands in the Ontario Hockey League, if not the CHL. He's always a threat on the ice to score. He's really a man you have to look out for whenever you're on against him."

While his offensive skills are impressive, he needs to get bigger and stronger to play at the next level.
 
"We'd like to see a little more size and strength," said the NHL scout. "You notice on the ice with the other (players); he stood out as being a little light."

Kadri agrees with that assessment.

"I think I’m 6-feet and around 175 (pounds) now," he said. "I'm a guy that gaining weight is a chore, but I stuck with my trainers and they gave me strict diets to follow and I worked out every day."

That's why the broken jaw could have hurt him more than most players, but he persevered, and has set his sights on a strong second half to the season and then the draft.

"You can't think about it too much," Kadri said of the June selection show. "Keep it in the back of your mind and do what you do every day."

And continue playing well with others.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.