Fully aware of Nazem Kadri's potential defensive short comings, Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Friday that he will play on the wing for the foreseeable future, beginning with tomorrow's game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Toronto's top prospect skated on a line with Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin at Friday's practice after arriving in town only two hours before.
"He's been playing the wing (in the minors) and that's where we think, if he's going to crack our lineup, it would be on the wing," Wilson said. "The centreman has such huge defensive responsibilities."
After Brian Burke addressed the media today about calling up Kadri and 6-foot-6, 225-pound defenceman Keith Aulie, Wilson discussed at length what he feels the 20-year-old can bring to the lineup in terms of generating offence for a team that desperately needs goals.
Toronto has scored only 16 times in its last 11 games, 10 of which have been losses.
"We want to surround Nazzy with detail [oriented]people so that he can show us what he can do offensively with the puck," Wilson said. "So hopefully that line is able to click. And you've got to remember that they've only played one practice together but in theory I think it can work.
"Nazzy has the skills that our power play needs and if he does here what he's been doing in the AHL on the power play then it will pick up some steam I think."
Kadri said he feels as though he has made some real progress in the minors, where he has 14 points in 14 games so far. Entering what will be only his second NHL game, he admitted he will likely be a little nervous but that he knows what he can contribute.
"The reason they brought me here and the reason they drafted me is to kind of give this team and offensive spark and that's what I'm gonna try and do," Kadri said. "I'm gonna try and go out there and have time of possession with the puck, use my linemates and hopefully we can get some scoring chances going.
"It's just a big learning process, a big stepping stone. I think it's really something I wanted to focus on was that defensive end and playing away from the puck. I think that's what really sunk into my memory and now that I kind of have it in there in bold and italics, I'm gonna bring it up to the NHL and hopefully can stick here."
With Kadri and Aulie now on the roster, Toronto's lineup is expected to look like so tomorrow:
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kessel Kadri - Bozak - Kulemin Sjostrom - Brent - Versteeg Brown - Mitchell - Orr
Kaberle - Schenn Beauchemin - Komisarek Lebda - Aulie