LONDON, Ont. – While Don Cherry thinks Nazem Kadri should be advancing his career at the knee of Toronto Maple Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson, Kadri was doing it Tuesday at the feet of London Knights’ coach Dale Hunter.
Each time Kadri and a linemate failed to score on a two-on-one at practice, Hunter had them drop to the ice and do 20 pushups while he stood over them counting.
“We had a lot of two-on-ones the other night against St. Michael’s and didn’t score,” Hunter said after practice.
“Naz could have had three goals. I just did it to make them think,” the former NHL badman added with a wink.
Cherry unwittingly added some pressure on the Leafs’ first draft pick during his between-periods commentary Saturday night by showing a dazzling goal Kadri scored against the Plymouth Whalers the previous night, prefacing it by saying he was going to show one of Toronto’s best players.
Then, he went on to say Kadri should be playing for the Leafs right now.
“I wasn’t paying (Cherry) any money for any shout-outs,” Kadri joked. “I really appreciated it.”
Kadri, who turned 19 last week, admits being sent back to the OHL Knights was painful.
“When I went to camp with the Leafs, there were a ton of doubters,” he explained. “I think I opened a few eyes. My goal was to stay. It hurt but I respect their decision.”
You get the sense the 170-pound puck artist understands the decision, too. He’s bright, will soon begin some University of Western Ontario courses, and is enjoying his old teammates – while following his recent ones with the Leafs on television knowing he could probably help.
“I was told I’m ready to play in the NHL but that by Christmas, I’d be worn down. It’s a good point.”
Playing with the Knights, he puts in 25-30 minutes a game. With the Leafs, he’d probably get 10 minutes ice time per match.
What he needs now is to lead the Knights, who’ve been suffering a bit of a power outage offensively, with some scoring.
“We had three two-on-one chances in the same shift, in about 20 seconds, last game,” he said. “You have to put those away.”
Otherwise, those pushups await.