Babcock has high praise for one of his top players.

Some serious compliments from the Leafs head coach.

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There's been one message Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has been sticking to since he first took the job, the players who work hard and earn the right to play will be the ones who get to play.

On Thursday night Babcock had some very high praise for one of his top players, forward Nazem Kadri, who has certainly played like someone with a major chip on his shoulder this season.

"Naz is a brave guy. He's nasty to play against. He competes hard. He wants to do it right ... And he doesn't back up to anybody. I think a big part of playing against good players is being mean enough to do it and compete hard enough to do it and he does that."

It wasn't just compliments for Kadri either, it sounds like Babcock may view him as one of the few pieces the Leafs will, or should, retain going forward as they attempt to become a competitive club.

"I think he has a chance to be a real good player," Babcock said. "He's done whatever I asked and competed hard."

It will be interesting to see how much Kadri's game can evolve under Babcock.