Nazem Kadri on playing in Toronto: 'Sometimes it's hard on young players'

John E. Sokolowski / USA Today

Nazem Kadri is ready to take the next, big step with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The forward, who will turn 25 the day before the 2015-16 regular season begins, signed a one-year, $4.1-million deal with the club earlier this summer, and is expected to assert himself as a top-flight center moving forward.

Things haven't always been easy for Kadri in the so-called center of the universe, however. His conditioning has come into question several times in the past, he was depicted on the cover of a local newspaper with a pacifier in his mouth after being sent to the AHL, and he was suspended for two games last season for internal disciplinary reasons.

With a couple of weeks left before the start of training camp, Kadri told TSN he's spent the summer trying to improve on his weaknesses and learning more of what it takes to be a professional. As a result, he believes he's turned a corner, and ready to move on from a a somewhat rocky start to his NHL career.

"There's been up and downs, that's just how it is," he said Monday. "Obviously, in Toronto, a lot of speculation, a lot of scrutiny comes along with that. Sometimes it's hard for young players, but, you know, as time goes on, you start to mature. That maturity thing comes into play, and you start to realize this is what you really want."

Kadri will have a clean slate of sorts as camp begins, with the Maple Leafs now under the watchful eye of head coach Mike Babcock. While he took a bit of a step back numbers-wise this past season, the seventh overall pick from the 2009 NHL Draft is coming off 20- and 18-goal seasons, and has an eye on a long-term deal to be worked out within the next year.

Nazem Kadri on playing in Toronto: 'Sometimes it's hard on young players'
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