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Kadri’s rise up NHL scoring list cheered by former Maple Leafs teammates

Oct 28, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (91) reacts after scoring a goal against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Nazem Kadri won’t hit the ice at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night on top of the hockey world, but he won’t be far off either.

The former Maple Leafs centre is enjoying a career season with the Colorado Avalanche and was tied for fourth in scoring in the National Hockey League prior to games on Tuesday.

“Naz is a great competitor,” Leafs captain John Tavares said of the Leafs’ 2009 first-round pick. “He seems to raise his game when the intensity rises, when the stakes are higher. Extremely talented, tremendous personality, a lot of fun, a great guy to be around. It should be a good battle against him.”

Tavares might have looked past Kadri’s propensity for being suspended during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but you get the point: The 31-year-old is most effective when he’s in the thick of it all.

Kadri, who has 27 points (seven goals and 20 assists) in 18 games, is headed for a nice payday in free agency next summer. In two games against Toronto since being traded to Colorado in July 2019 for Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot, Kadri has two assists.

“He’s playing great,” Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly said. “I had a chance to hang out with him a little bit during the off-season around Toronto and he seems to like where he is, so I’m happy for him.”