For Toronto Maple Leafs fans every- where, the eve of June 26 was not just a night to bask in the glow of newly drafted faces. It was a night that promised change. Nazem Kadri, a London Ontario native, was drafted 7th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft Entries.
Though the Leafs roster is abun- dant with players from many walks of life, Kadri is the first Muslim play- er to skate in blue and white. He achieved the highest rank a Muslim has ever been drafted in NHL histo- ry. Being of Lebanese descent and a practising Muslim, Kadri is the sym- bol of diversity that was long over- due for the Leafs organization. The six-foot rookie embodies the multi- culturalism that Toronto boasts of and stands to be an inspiration to the younger generation.
Being a role model is an impor- tant thing for me, said Kadri. Hopefully I can open up some eyes.
Having Muslim representation in the NHL may not only drive younger Muslim children to take up the sport and aspire to fill Kadris skates. It also makes the idea of breaking racial and religious barri- ers in the sports realm likelier, as his presence in the big leagues will help persuade children from immi- grant families to take up the tradi- tionally expensive and time-con- suming sport.
A lot of Muslim kids are going to start playing hockey because they see someone like them who can be successful in that area, said Kadri.
Albeit young, he is a player worth looking out for. As a strong center for the London Knights, Kadri dazzled onlookers with his ability to perform under pressure while under the scrutinizing gaze of hockey fanatics everywhere. Kadri was the undoubtedly the best player on the Knights last season, playing 56 games and rallying up a total of 25 goals and 53 assists within that timeframe.
He’s got great skill and he plays with [heart], says Dale Hunter, the coach of the Knights. He hits hard. And he’s a playmaker. He puts up points and he’s a winner.
Though a jaw injury prevented him from making the national junior team, Kadri is able to flaunt
his talents. Al Murray, head scout of Team Canada, believes that Kadri is a better skater then the top pick in the 2009 draft, John Tavares, given the formers versatility when it comes down to playing multiple positions.
He can play all three forward positions and all roles, from first line to fourth line, said Murray.
Despite Kadris pivotal role in recent Leafs games, as in the victory secured by Kadri through scoring both the tying and shootout win- ning goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 23, the head coach of the Leafs, Ron Wilson, doesnt see him immediate- ly breaking into the Leafs roster.
I’ll say this for the last time, unless [Kadri] can make the top two lines, he’ll be in junior, and I don’t see much of a chance of that [mak- ing Leafs lineup] the way the other guys have played, Wilson said.
Already armed with three goals and two points accumulated in a mere four pre-season games, only time will tell whether or not Wilson will pencil Nazem Kadri into the Leafs opening day roster.
Yesterday, Kadri was cut from the Leafs training camp and offi- cially returned to his junior affili- ate. Expect to see him in the NHL in the near future as he develops into an integral part of the leafs organization.