Kadri brings the Leafs into annual rookie tournament

Nazem Kadri will take another step forward this weekend in his quest to join the Maple Leafs roster in the upcoming season.

And he’ll be doing it in familiar territory.

Kadri will head back to his hometown of London, Ontario  as the Leafs host their annual rookie tournament from Sept. 11 to 14.

Prospects from three NHL teams — Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ontario rivals Ottawa Senators — will join the Leafs in the tourney.

All games will take place at John Labatt Centre, where Kadri played the final two years of his junior career with the London Knights.

The seventh overall draft pick in 2009 is looking forward to not only proving his worth in the event, but also soaking up the experience before a promising hockey season.

“I’m a London native and I’m pretty excited,” said the 19-year-old, to the Toronto Sun. “I can’t wait to get going. I’m starting to get that itch for hockey.”

Among those joining Kadri will be five 2010 draftees: Bradley Ross (43rd pick overall), Greg McKegg (62), Sondre Olden (79), Sam Carrick (144), and Josh Nicholls (182).

The Leafs will not be showcasing any 2010 first round draftees this year as they traded away their pick to Boston for Phil Kessel.

Though the team will be lacking first round star power behind Kadri, there seems to be some talent to appease Maple Leafs fans, primarily at the forward position.

One such rookie is winger Jerry D’Amigo. The sixth round pick in 2009 performed well for the U.S. in the 2010 World Junior Championship last January.

The 19-year-old finished tied for third in the tournament with 12 points, leading the team to a silver medal.

Fellow rookie forwards Ross, Marcel Mueller and Kenny Ryan all are looking to make waves among a deep talent pool up front.

Liambas gets a chance

Stealing the show a little bit is the controversial invite of troublesome winger Michael Liambas.

The Woodbridge, Ont. native was kicked off the Erie Otters of the OHL midway through last season after a vicious hit on 16-year-old Ben Fanelli of the Kitchener Rangers.

Bad news followed Liambas when in a game with the Bloomington Prairie Thunder of the International Hockey League, he received a five-game suspension for an illegal hit.

Now, the 21-year-old is using such opportunities as this weekend’s tournament to make his way back into the spotlight — for the right reasons this time.

For Kadri, the spotlight has been a familiar scene for years, and he is well aware of it.

The talented forward worked hard over the off-season and believes he’s prepared for taking the final leap to the pros.

“All my skills are there right now, everything is sharp, it’s just the physical aspect now. The more I mature physically, the better it’s going to be.

“That was my focus this summer and I think I’m ready for the NHL now.”

Toronto’s Tournament Schedule

Sat. Sept. 11          11:30 a.m.                Practice
Sat. Sept. 11           7:00 p.m.                 Game vs. Chicago
Sun. Sept. 12         10:30 a.m.               Practice
Sun. Sept. 12          7:00 p.m.               Game vs. Pittsburgh
Tue. Sept. 14          11:30 a.m.               Practice
Tue. Sept. 14          7:00 p.m.                 Game vs. Ottawa