With the the Leafs regular season set to start on Thursday against Montreal, the team announced roster cuts today which included their 7th overall draft pick Nazem Kadri being returned to the London Knights of the OHL. Kadri had an outstanding camp and preseason. Before camp started there was no talk of Kadri making the opening day roster but with a dominant camp followed by a preseason in which he had 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games there was a legitimate chance for the teenager to make the team. The Leafs said they would only keep Kadri this season if he could play his way onto one of the teams top 2 forward lines, but Kadri couldn’t beat out centers Mikhail Grabovski and Matt Stajan and the Leafs don’t want to use either of the three in a checking role.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson weighed in on the situation this morning saying, “Nazem is going to be a super star in this league, we honestly believe that. But we want him to go back to the OHL and absolutely dominate. We don’t want him to be a 50 or 60-point scorer here, we want him to be a 100-point scorer. Sometimes the only way to do that is to dominate with your peers. I coached (Knights’ coach) Dale Hunter in Washington and I know how much he loves Nazem and he’ll make him even a better player. It will be a great year for him, to try and win a Memorial Cup or a gold medal (with Team Canada).”
This is definitely the right move by the Leafs. Sure, Kadri had an impressive preseason and yes the Leafs have surprised with their play, but don’t look to far into it. The Leafs played a Boston Bruins team without Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, and Milan Lucic. They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins without Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury and barely squeaked by a Red Wings squad that was without Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Franzen, and Rafalski. I’m not saying that Kadri isn’t going to be a star in the NHL but he certainly wasn’t going to be this year and another year in junior will definitely help him. The last thing the Leafs need is to ruin the confidence of a talented 19 year old by giving him too much responsibility too early. Toronto fans have seen it too many times before. A rookie with great promise is expected to do way too much by the fans and media and is forced out of town. If this was Atlanta or Phoenix, I’d say go for it, let’s see what the kid can do in the big league, but this is Toronto. Let Kadri adapt to the spotlight as the leading scorer in London and on the Canadian World Junior team. Remember when the Sens kept Spezza out of the big leagues? Look how that turned out. Great move Leafs. I’m shocked.
Defenceman Jonas Frogren and winger Christian Hanson were assigned to the Marlies and defenceman Andy Rogers was released.