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Nazem Kadri could benefit from NHL labour stoppage

Maple Leafs prospect focused on strength and conditioning this summer

Nazem Kadri is taking an optimistic approach heading into training camp this season.

The 21-year-old Maple Leafs’ prospect is not allowing uncertainty with the NHL labour talks to interfere with his progression.

Kadri would much rather be entering his fourth big league camp, but sees the positives in starting with the AHL Toronto Marlies.

“It’s going to get us ready,” Kadri said on Thursday. “Once something does get resolved, we’re going to be already in skating shape and mid-season form (and we’ll) be able to step into that NHL training camp all ready to go.”

Kadri enters camp after an offseason of working out with former Leafs forward-turned fitness guru Gary Roberts.

Roberts runs a summer boot camp and is credited with helping players such as Steven Stamkos and Jeff Skinner raise their games to the next level.

It was Roberts who initiated the process, tweeting Kadri: “Think if @MapleLeafs @43_Kadri trained (with) me this summer Burke would let him on the big team?”

Kadri accepted the challenge and now credits the training with increasing his lower body strength and explosiveness.

This in itself is a great sign for Leafs fans, as Roberts is known for only working with the most dedicated athletes.

Roberts places a very large emphasis on educating players on the benefits of a proper diet and rigorous off-season training.

Kadri, the former 2009 first-round draft pick, has struggled to live up to the hype. He had only five goals in 21 games with the big club last season, and was sent down to the AHL.

But he flourished with the Marlies, putting up 18 goals and 22 assists in 48 games.

He continued his hot streak into the postseason, where Kadri played an integral role in the Marlies run to the Calder Cup finals.

When Kadri was switched back to his natural position of centre, it seemed to spark the feisty prospect. He scored three goals and added seven assists in 11 playoff games.

“This is a developmental league, it’s a league to prepare you,” said Kadri. “Being here for one more year or one month, or two months, or three months, is really not going to hurt anybody.”

Earlier Thursday, the NHL announced the cancellation of all preseason games, and the start of the regular season (Oct. 11) could be in doubt.

Observers are wondering if this is the head start that Kadri needs to propel him into the NHL full time.

While regular NHLers sit at home waiting for a resolution, Kadri will be logging big minutes with the Marlies.

The Leafs have been vocal in regards to finding a centreman for sniper Phil Kessel and failed.

Management is hoping the solution can be found internally, Kadri could step in this season and fill the void.

Whether or not Kadri seizes the chance remains to be seen, if he does the lockout would be a blessing in disguise.