Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri explains significance of new No. 91

Brian Burke joined Prime Time Sports to discuss Mitch Marner's contract situation, other RFAs and how Auston Matthews may consider leaving the Maple Leafs at the end of his contract.

What’s old is new again.

Like mom jeans and fanny packs, Nazem Kadri is throwing it back and freshening up a look he’d long buried in the back of the closet.

During his nine-year tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kadri wore No. 43 simply because it was the sweater handed to him at his first training camp. (He’s still rocking the @43_Kadri handle on social media.)

But after being traded to the Colorado Avalanche this summer — packaged with defence prospect Calle Rosen in exchange for Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot — Kadri decided to go back to No. 91, the number splashed on his back during his 78- and 93-point offensive explosions for the OHL London Knights in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

It’s a symbolic nod to the transition in his life.

“New start, new number. I never wore that in the NHL, but I wore it in junior and had some great years with it. I just figured, hey, new team, new year, new number. Clean slate. That’s my mentality,” Kadri explains.

“I was always a big Paul Kariya fan growing up, and he wore nine, so I was always wearing variations of nine. I wore 19 my first year of junior [with the Kitchener Rangers], then my last couple years I reversed it to 91. It’s always been a variation on nine because my favourite player wore that number.”

Kadri, 28, is pulling out the seniority card with the number switch, as 23-year-old winger Valdislav Kamenev (28 career NHL games played) will subtract 10 from the 91 he sported last season to 81.

Perhaps Kadri, coming off a down year offensively in Toronto’s 3C slot, is subliminally trying to channel the offensive output of the league’s other 91s: Steven Stamkos, Tyler Seguin, Valdimir Tarasenko and John Tavares.

“He’s built for the Central Division. He plays hard, he plays tough, and he can put the puck in the net,” former teammate-turned-champion Tyler Bozak told The Denver Post last week. “He’s got great skills and he’s got that nasty streak that a lot of guys don’t like playing against.”

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Kadri has been training in Toronto this summer but is planning his move to Denver this weekend. The longest-tenured Maple Leaf at the time of his trade says the shock has worn off and he’s fully embraced his new franchise. And he has the threads to match.

“Oh, yeah. Big time. I’m a member of the Avalanche now, and I know what I can bring to that team,” Kadri says.

“If there’s one team I could’ve chosen to go to, it would’ve been that team, so I’m really excited about it.”

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