It appears as though Nazem Kadri will have to wait to realize his NHL dream.
Following Friday's pre-season loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson stated that the promising prospect will most likely begin the season in the AHL.
"I can't see him playing in our lineup opening night and I don't think it's that important," said Wilson. "He's gotta be a better hockey player."
After a stunning pre-season last year when he was among the final cuts, the 19-year old has not had the training camp the team was hoping for. While he was stellar in Wednesday's victory over the Senators, scoring twice and adding an assist, he has struggled to show the same offensive flair he did in the OHL.
While Kadri said he would be disappointed if he was sent down he knows the decision is not up to him.
"I'm playing as hard as I can. I'm trying to make this team, that's what I want to do. But it's in the hands of the coaches and whatever they decide to do, I'm fine with."
Kadri had one shot on goal in just over 11 minutes of ice time while skating mostly on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin in a 7-3 loss. Wilson saw the game as a great opportunity for not just Kadri, but all of his young players to see what it was like to play against a Cup contender like the Red Wings.
"(They are) a very determined team. They're very deep, quick, fast, big and strong. It was a real men's team out there and it was a good education for our younger players."
Kadri admitted that he could learn a great deal from a team like the Wings, especially when it comes to defensive responsibility, an issue which he has been criticized for in the past.
"Their 30 and 40 goals scorers are still backchecking as hard as their fourth liners. I think that's why they've had such a winning history and I think we have to apply a little more of that."
If a stint with the Toronto Marlies is ultimately his fate, then the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has the right attitude about his situation.
"I'm not going to complain at all," Kadri stated. "It's a learning process and I'm still a young guy, if it means going to the minors then so be it. My plan, if I do head down there, is to not be down there for very long. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get right back up here."
That type of work ethic is exactly what Wilson and his staff will be looking for when the inevitable injury bug takes a bite out of the team at some point this season. Kadri understands the opportunity that he has been granted.
"There's really nothing to sulk about. I've been given an opportunity of a lifetime here. This is the NHL, there's no room for crybabies."