Naz Tracker. Kadri Nation. Kaptain Kadri…
… Kadri, Kadri, Kadri!
Who would have guessed that with all the attention surrounding the Leafs 2009 1st round pick, it would actually be the Toronto kid selected in the 2nd round that would be first to string some games together on a pro club. Though not officially announced, Jesse Blacker has left the OHL and joined the Toronto Marlies for the remainder of the season.
I first was introduced to Jesse last July at a charity run/walk-a-thon around the Toronto Indy track. I was there to film an interview with his recent rival, Nazem Kadri, whom Blacker’s Spitfires had recently eliminated in the OHL championship game. With a goofy grin, a couple teeth shy of perfect, Jesse immediately introduced himself as if I was the one just drafted 58th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So who’s Jesse Blacker? He’s the kidÂ whoÂ has spent the past 18 years dreaming ofÂ playing as aÂ Maple Leaf (unlike a certain London Ontario family who spent all their time watching the Habs – ahem) and the kid who is one step away of having his dream come true. Jesse Blacker is eager and excited, he is ready for the reward and, if those missing teeth are any indication, ready to work every step of the way.
Blacker spent a little over two full OHL seasons with the Windsor Spitfires before being traded to the Owen Sound Attack. Rumour has it Blacker’s diminished ice time on a stacked Spits team drew the attention of MLSE scouts who then leaned on the upper brass to “influence” a trade to Owen Sound. Either way, Blacker’s here and he’s brought with him 97 OHL games worth of experience including 10g, 48a, 134 PIM’s and a heck-of-a playoff run that ended with a Memorial Cup.
Blacker brings to the Marlies a slightlyÂ underweight 6’1″ frame -Â which is not out of the ordinary -Â sound defensive awareness and a very Burk-esque view of team toughness andÂ truculence. Though the Marlies have been defensively solid most of the season, the testing of Blacker in these final regular season games will no doubt aid in the decisions Nonis must make in the off-season (including what to do with Fletcher folly, Jonas Frogren).
Blacker will make his first appearance wearing the blue and white this Saturday as the Marlies are set to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs at the Ricoh Coliseum. Jesse is coming off his best season yet in the OHL, and is eagerly anticipating an AHL playoff appearance.
And for any that are curious as to how I spent my summer afternoon with Blacker and Kadri…. we played video games, what did you expect?
UPDATE (4:27pm): The Toronto Marlies just released an official presser announcing the signing of Blacker to an amateur try-out contract.