London Knights center Nazem Kadri
stands out for his unique skill set. He also stands out for another reason.
If Kadri reaches the NHL, he would be at least the third player of Lebanese decent to play in the League. Alain Nasreddine, who was born in Montreal, played 74 NHL games with Chicago, Montreal, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh, most recently in 2007-08. Ed Hatoum, who was born in Beirut, played 47 games with Detroit and Vancouver from 1968-71.
Kadri's grandparents lived in the small town of Kferdenis, which is located in the southern part of the country, near the Bekaa Valley, but moved to Ontario in 1968. Sam Kadri, Nazem's father, was 4 years old at the time.
"We had relatives here, so that was one of the major reasons," Sam Kadri told NHL.com. "During that time (in Lebanon) there was a lot of civil war and things economically weren't that good. It was time for a change."
That change landed the family in Komoka, Ont., just west of London, where Sam Kadri and a family that came to include six siblings grew up and immersed themselves in the culture of their new homeland.
That, of course, included hockey. Sam Kadri was like any other athletic teenager, but playing hockey wasn't much of a possibility for him due to the expense.
"My father, when he emigrated from Lebanon, he was an orphan," said Sam Kadri. "His parents passed away when he was 4, so he grew up hard. When he emigrated, he brought three of now seven children. It was hard for him to make a living here and be able to look after the family, let alone play sports, period. And hockey especially because it takes a good dollar to put your kid into it, especially if they're playing at a competitive level."
When Sam married and he and his wife Sue had children, he decided his son would have the opportunities that he didn't.
"I had (Nazem) skating at 3," said Sam Kadri. "A lot of it was I was envious of my friends in high school. (Hockey) is a fabulous game, and I wished I could play it, so that's why I got him started. He played house league at 4 -- you're not supposed to play until you're 5, but I fibbed and started him early."
That would explain why Nazem Kadri
has played so well during his time in the OHL -- he had a head start.
"Nazem has real high-end puck skills and playmaking abilities," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "Smart guy and he's real effective on the power play."
"Naz is a guy who brings a lot of skill," added London teammate John Tavares. "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."
Kadri had 25 goals in 68 games for the Kitchener Rangers and helped them reach the finals of the Memorial Cup in 2007-08. He and Tavares were the only draft-eligible players invited to Canada's summer evaluation camp for the 2009 World Junior Championships, but a broken jaw in mid-November that sidelined him for a month ended his hopes of playing in Ottawa.
He recovered well enough to play in both the OHL All-Star Game and the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game. He scored 25 goals again this season, and was third on the Knights with 78 points in 56 games. He added 9 goals and 21 points in 14 playoff games as London advanced to the league semifinals. He had a goal and 6 assists in the five-game series loss to the eventual OHL and Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.
All that effort earned him the No. 15 rating from NHL Central Scouting in its final rankings for the 2009 Entry Draft.
At every Knights game, the Kadri clan made up a sizable portion of the crowd at London's John Labatt Centre. He'll also have a sizable cheering section in Montreal.
"Relatives, I would say you get easy a couple hundred," said Sam Kadri. "For the draft in Montreal we'll have a couple hundred. My wife comes from one of six. You can see where it's quite an extended family. My brothers and sisters and their kids is about 50, and that doesn’t include my wife's family."
"Naz is a guy who brings a lot of skill. 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." - - -- John Tavares
Two of the most interested observers will be Nazem and Shrifi Kadri, Nazem's grandparents. There wasn't much of a hockey culture for them in Lebanon, but over the years they've tried to pick up different facets of the game.
"When their grandson is playing, they're going to be into it," Nazem told NHL.com. "But the rules and stuff, we had to explain it to them slowly."
"When someone gets a penalty, they would say they're going to jail," Sam Kadri said of his parents. "It's a hard thing trying to explain offside to them."
They're starting to get the hang of it now, though.
"They definitely are very happy and celebrate when he does score, or when London scores," said Sam Kadri.Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.