A former NHLer dropped by the Maple Leafs practice on Friday and was asked for his opinion about the way the blue and white has played so far this season.

“Well they’re winning” he said. “But let me ask you something. Did Phil Kessel play the last two games?

When told that Kessel had indeed played against the Wild on Tuesday and the Hurricanes on Thursday the dude rolled his eyes. Apparently he knew the answer to the question he was just making a point ... which was when Kessel disappears he really disappears.

The Leafs winger who signed an eight-year $8-million per extension last month did play against Minnesota and Carolina but there were times where you could hardly tell he was on the ice. He picked up an assist in the 4-1 victory over Minnesota — and earned kudos throughout Leafs Nation for his unselfish play on Mason Raymond’s empty net goal — and had three shots on net in the 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday but he was like the Invisible Man at times. Kessel does have 33 shots on net in eight games this season (eighth most in the NHL not including Friday night’s games) and two goals. So the shots are there. The question is though: Is he working hard enough to get good chances or as Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was asked after practice on Friday settling too often for long-range snap shots? And is the fact that he hasn’t been particularly effective in the past two games (Kessel was a minus-1 with no points against Carolina) have anything to do with the fact that his regular linemate James van Riemsdyk was out with back spasms?

“I don’t know” said Carlyle. “I think goal-scorers find their niche find their comfort zone. And I think with Phil we’ve asked him to play a little bit more of a cycle game to do some things stop-up push the puck deep. We just know that the power play is one area that I think with him that’s his cookies. He gets his opportunities his chances on the power play. Once you get one going your way the floodgates seem to open.”

Kessel has yet to score a power-play goal this season though the Leafs are tied for first in the NHL with nine as a result of 31 PP opportunities.