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All or nothing for Kadri at Team Canada's WJHC camp

TSN.ca Staff

12/14/2009 8:17:38 PM

Despite being given every opportunity to succeed, Nazem Kadri is running out of lives quickly. Struggling to generate offence and plagued by frequent turnovers, Kadri is arguably behind the eight-ball right now in his bid to crack Team Canada's world junior squad.

"I think it's a work in progress," said Hockey Canada Head Scout Al Murray. "We've put Nazem in a situation, both in the summer camp and here - as we have with other strong offensive players - to play with good players so they can give and go and create opportunities with those other players."

The problem is, Kadri hasn't been creating offence, and old habits that he can get away with in junior hockey will probably not be tolerated by the coaching staff here, where expectations are high as Canada looks for a sixth straight gold medal at this tournament. What is required is an ability to adapt to the different style of play.

"They don't want long shifts, they want short shifts. They don't want one person hanging on to the puck, they want them moving the puck," said Murray. "Players like Nazem have to change their game and change what they do to take their skill level and put it into the context that the coaches want to use it as."

Team Canada's head coach Willie Desjardins seconded that notion.

"We want him to play a little bit of a different style here and it is going to be tough for him to adjust to that style a little bit," said Desjardins.

"At the international level, turnovers will hurt you, so we're probably trying to make him not put himself in that situation as much," he said. "But you still have to be the guy that got you here as well, you can't be a totally different player. It's a bit of a tough one for him but he's a good player and he's got lots of skill."

Kadri acknowledged the differences between playing for the OHL's London Knights and skating with 35 of the country's best young players, but said he thought he was adapting well to the different system.

"We've got a lot of depth here, something you may not have with your junior club," said London native Kadri. "So you might have to stay out (on the ice) an extra 20-30 seconds. I think I've been adjusting pretty well. Everyone's got a fair shot at making this team, so it's pretty competitive out there."

It hasn't been a stellar season for the 19-year-old back in London. This sometimes happens with young players who have strong showings in their first NHL training camps, as Kadri did with the Maple Leafs, who selected him seventh overall in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

It tends to take some time for them to get used to playing the junior game once again. At one point in the OHL this season, Kadri went through a stretch where he only scored once in eight games. 

"Obviously I stepped up my game for the NHL club but it wasn't good enough at the time and hopefully I can get in the swing next year," said Kadri. "But it's definitely a lot different coming back to junior, with the NHL/OHL comparison."

Recently, Kadri was paid a visit by Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke to talk about his season, and more specifically, this selection camp.

"He told me the things that I needed to do to be a successful hockey player," said the 6'0, 167-pound centre. "Things like working on my shot and keeping things simple. Really, when things aren't going your way, you kind of have to simplify your game to get things moving. It was a really positive meeting and he looks forward to seeing me in the future."

That future could consist of a spot on Team Canada's number one line. It could also see Kadri back in junior. At this point, the ball is still in Kadri's court, and it will only be a matter of days before the verdict is in.

- Written with files from TSN's Ryan Rishaug