For the third straight day, Leafs brass announced that Kadri was “off limits” to the media as the 19-year-old recovers from a hip flexor he suffered in the first game of the Leafs’ rookie tournament.
Toronto Marlies bench boss Dallas Eakins, who is coaching the rookies during the tournament in London, said it was the choice of team’s administration to lower the cone of silence.
“This comes from us,” Eakins told the National Post. “We’re trying to help the kid a little bit.”
Playing in a hockey hotbed such as Toronto can put a lot of pressure on an esteemed prospect and Eakins said that the decision to keep Kadri quiet was made so his focus remains on the ice.
“Your first-round pick’s always under the microscope,” said Eakins. “And the thinking here is — I said it [Monday] — if he came out, it would be ‘how’s your hip flexor? How’s your hip flexor?’ And [Tuesday] it would be, ‘How’s your hip flexor?’
“It turns into Watergate with Nazem Kadri’s hip flexor, when it’s nothing. And really, who cares?”
Eakins used the opportunity to turn the media’s focus away from Kadri and more towards the other rookies trying to impress the coaches before the prospect tournament wrapped up on Tuesday night.
“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.”
Back in the lineup
Despite speculation that Toronto’s top prospect could be out for an extended period of time, Kadri was back in the lineup and on the first line for the Leafs’ last rookie tilt against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
Leafs GM Brian Burke told the Toronto Star this week that Kadri felt good enough to play in the last matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.
“Nazem [wanted] to play,” said Burke, stating his removal from the lineup was a “precautionary measure.”
While Kadri’s pedigree would leave many in Leafs Nation believing the London native could crack the roster this season, a part of Burke’s development plan is to let his younger players develop their skills in the minors.
“You should look at my track record as far as Kadri and [Jerry] D’Amigo and [Marcel] Mueller as far as guys playing [in the NHL] right away,” said Burke.
“I like guys to spend time in the American Hockey League. I think it’s invaluable.”
Kadri was the Leafs’ first pick – seventh overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft – and his strong play during his first NHL training camp last fall led many fans to believe that he would make the team.
However, Burke refused to buckle under fan and media pressure, insisting Kadri spend another year with his junior club.