Maple Leafs top pick Nazem Kadri expected to return for rookie tournament finale

LONDON, Ont. – Nazem Kadri is expected back in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform when they wrap up their rookie tournament on Tuesday night.

The team’s highest-profile prospect sat out Sunday’s game after experiencing some discomfort in his hip. But Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, who is in charge of the organization’s rookie team, isn’t concerned about the 19-year-old centre.

“His hip flexor is such a minor deal it’s not even worth talking about,” Eakins said Monday. “Back to back (games), we didn’t want to push it any further—nor would we do that with any of our players. He’s scheduled to play tomorrow night.”

The Leafs will wrap up the rookie tournament with a game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

Kadri, who was selected seventh overall by Toronto in 2009, has generated plenty of interest while participating in an event being held at the arena where he spent two years as a star player with the OHL’s London Knights. The Leafs have been doing their best to keep him out of the spotlight—not making him available for interviews on Sunday or Monday.

“I think he’s going to be a focus because he’s our first-round pick and you guys are going to ask him the same questions over and over every day,” said Eakins. “It gets tiresome for a player. We just want to kind of keep him away from that for a couple days.

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“Believe me, there’s probably at least 50 guys coming to (training) camp. There’s going to be other players that challenge him and challenge our NHL guys for spots—you should probably go try to find them and seek them out.”

The Leafs-Senators rookie game on Tuesday will be the final event for both organizations before training camps open this weekend.

There could be something riding on the outcome. Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and new Binghamton Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst both played hockey at Providence College, and Kleinendorst said “we might have to put dinner on the table.”

“I’ve never really been in the building when the Maple Leafs have gone up against the Senators,” said Kleinendorst, who is running Ottawa’s team. “Even though it’s a rookie game, it matters. I tell my guys that as well—it matters.”