Lou Lamoriello: I’m a fan of the way Nazem Kadri plays

Lou Lamoriello sits down with Elliotte Friedman and talks about differences between New Jersey and Toronto, players who've surprised him, Nazem Kadri's future, and whether their focus or blueprint have wavered since the season's start.

Sure, he can be a little polarizing among Toronto Maple Leafs fans. But there’s no question that Nazem Kadri has plenty of fans in the hockey world — and Lou Lamoriello might be one of the biggest.

In a sitdown interview with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that aired Wednesday evening, Toronto’s general manager spoke highly of the 25-year-old centre — especially his work ethic.

“I love the way he competes,” said Lamoriello. “I’ve seen him get hit at different times and he just comes right back. He’s not afraid to give it, and what you respect the most about him is he can take it. He’s not a retaliatory type of player, but he’ll get you at the right time, and at the right place.

“He’s one that I wouldn’t mind going in a foxhole with.”

This past off-season, the Maple Leafs signed Kadri to a one year extension — a show-me deal — worth $4.1-million, and the club has been vocal about motivating the 2009 first round pick to take them to the bank.

While on paper, Kadri's numbers haven't been spectacular — eight goals and 14 assists in 40 games this season — he has responded well to head coach Mike Babcock's system, and has spoken positively about his development.

“I feel like I’m starting to understand the game a lot better,” Kadri said back in November. “Don’t get me wrong. I love the goals and assists. But there are lots of other ways to help a team win.”

When asked whether or not Kadri is the kind of player the Maple Leafs could commit to long-term, Lamoriello said:

"Let me put it this way: I'm a fan of the way he plays, and there's no question you want Nazem Kadri in your lineup."

Lamoriello also praised Dion Phaneuf, singling him out as the player he's learned the most about since joining Toronto, and calling the captain "an outstanding leader."

"He has tremendous respect from the players," said Lamoriello. "And how he cares about individuals, especially the direction he gives younger players."

As for the team's overall vision under president Brendan Shanahan, Lamoriello said that hasn't changed.

"Brendan's vision, from Day One, has remained consistent. The plan is, you get a foundation that has a chance to build toward having success," he said. "And once that success takes place, whatever time that might come about, it can be extended for a period of time."