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Kadri signs entry-level deal with Leafs

Monday, 07.06.2009 / 3:42 PM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"My prediction is, with most young players, he's not ready, but I would love to be wrong on that. If he wants to come in and make a statement and force us to decide, great, those are the kind of headaches you love to have."
-- Brian Burke

Nazem Kadri, the No. 7 pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, became the first player from his class to sign an NHL contract when he signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

Kadri, a 5-foot-11.5, 167-pound center, had 25 goals and 78 points in 56 games for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League this past season. He was just as good in the playoffs, finishing tied for ninth with 21 points in 14 games as the Knights advanced to the OHL semifinals.

Kadri needs to get stronger physically before he can compete full-time in the NHL, but his offensive skills are unquestioned.

"He does everything at a high level," Leafs GM Brian Burke said. "He's got skating skill, he can handle the puck at high speeds. I think he just has to get stronger. … He's got to get stronger, his upper-body strength, his lower-body strength -- he needs a little more power for me."

Burke believes in giving young players all the development time they need in juniors and minor leagues -- All-Stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan all spent extended time in the AHL before making it to Anaheim when Burke was the Ducks' GM -- but that doesn't meant the door is closed on Kadri playing in the NHL this season. Luke Schenn, Toronto's top pick in the 2008 draft, spent all of this past season with the Leafs.

"My prediction is, with most young players, he's not ready, but I would love to be wrong on that," Burke said. "If he wants to come in and make a statement and force us to decide, great, those are the kind of headaches you love to have."

Burke's desire to move into the top three was one of the major storylines leading into the draft, but Burke said getting Kadri at No. 7 was far more than just a consolation prize.

"Our guys loved the energy and skill he brings to the game," Burke told NHL.com at the draft. "He's a hard worker, he's a dynamic player, he makes things happen on the ice. … It's a great deal for us."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com