The Nazem Kadri decision has been made.
Toronto officially sent the 19-year-old down to the AHL’s Marlies on Monday, as the team trimmed its roster in advance of Thursday’s season opener against the Montreal Canadiens.
Alongside Kadri, forwards Luca Caputi and Christian Hanson, and goaltender Jussi Rynnas were also assigned to Toronto’s AHL affiliate.
Heading into this year’s training camp, Kadri was the biggest story as all eyes were on the Leafs’ 2009 first-round draft pick to see if he could play his way onto the team.
In the end, the former London Knight showed he’s not ready for the big lights of the NHL quite yet.
But GM Brian Burke said Kadri has dealt with the demotion well.
“I think Nazem’s accepted that he’s made his own bed,” Burke told reporters. “I think he’s been very mature about it. If I could go back to the draft and you gave me the microphone again, I would take Nazem Kadri again.
“We believe in Nazem as a hockey player and a person. He’s not ready for the top six yet.”
Kadri had just one memorable performance in five games during the Leafs’ exhibition schedule, scoring two goals and an assist in Toronto’s 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 29.
But one game was not enough for the rookie to stake a spot on the regular season roster.
He struggled throughout the pre-season on the defensive end and did not put up the offensive numbers expected of a top two-line centre.
Kadri will now have time to develop and mature as a pro with the Marlies before eventually putting on the Maple Leaf sweater in the years to come.
To head coach Ron Wilson, that’s the best route for young players like Kadri.
“I don’t think 19, or 21, or 22-year-old guys who aren’t in the opening lineup should be sitting in the press box watching the game,” Wilson said before Toronto’s pre-season game last Friday. “They should be playing in the minors, if it comes to that.”
Meanwhile, both Caputi and Hanson’s demotions were tougher decisions to make as the two realistically played well enough to make the Leafs. Instead, they’ll get ample playing time with the Marlies.
“Sometimes, if you’re a new guy, you’ve got to be better than the incumbent,” Burke said. “If you go the way training camp went, I think Caputi and Hanson could both make a real good argument that this isn’t a fair result.
“But these are not guys we want playing six minutes a night. We want them to go down and play.”
In other roster news, the Leafs also waived Danny Richmond, Mike Zigomanis, and Jay Rosehill.
Should all three clear waivers, Rosehill and Richmond will suit up for the Marlies while Zigomanis would stay with the Leafs.