Since being drafted in 2014, Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe has had high expectations. Throughout his young career, he has had his ups and downs, but now he is finally starting to settle into the NHL.
Los Angeles Kings Adrian Kempe Growing Into His Own
Ever since being drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Adrian Kempe has had a lot of hype around him. He was drafted at a time when prospects were not a priority for the Kings, as then-general manager Dean Lombardi traded draft pick after draft pick. Due to this, Kempe, being a first-round pick, had high expectations surrounding him, as he was one of few early-round talents in the Kings organization.
Early Days With the Kings Organization
In his draft plus one season, Kempe spent the majority of the regular season in the SHL playing for MODO. He had a solid year, posting five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 50 games. Once his SHL season was over, Kempe came over to the Kings organization to play for their AHL team at the time, the Manchester Monarchs. Adrian Kempe came to Manchester just in time, however. He joined them for an incredible playoff run where they ended up winning the Calder Cup, and Kempe continued to live up to the hype around him. In 17 playoff games, he scored eight goals and one assist for nine points.
Kempe got his first taste of NHL action during the 2016-17 season, where he played in 25 games. His first full season, however, came in 2017-18 where he would play in 81 games. During this season, Kempe was expected to play a bottom-six role with the team. Early in the season, however, Jeff Carter went out with an injury that would keep him sidelined for the remainder of the year. The Kings needed someone to fill the centre role on “That 70’s Line” with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. That someone was Kempe.
Kempe stepped up in a big way, producing decent offence for a young player and meshing well with the two wingers. In 81 games, he scored 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points. This still stands as his career-high. Once again though, Kempe seemed to begin to prove that he could meet the expectations people had for him, especially since he stepped up into Carter’s role while he was out. People started to peg him as a potential top-six centre by the time he hit his prime.
The following year though, Kempe seemed to take a step back. Part of it could have been the people he was playing with, but overall he was not as productive or consistent as the year prior. In 81 games, he had 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points. That season is when Kempe really started to show his consistency issues. He would go on stretches where he would be the hottest player on the team, scoring important goals and producing points as much as anyone else on the roster. However, he would also go on stretches where he would go pointless for several games at a time.
The following season, it was the same story. Kempe had all of the pieces of a dominant player, yet he just couldn’t seem to put them together. He is a fast skater, a hard and accurate shooter, has slick hands, and is a solid passer. Even with all of this, he continued to struggle to find consistency.
During the 2019-20 season though, Kempe finally seemed to take another step forward. He still struggled with consistency, but he was more reliable than the season prior. Additionally, the Kings coaching staff decided to make a change that would greatly benefit Kempe. They decided to move him from centre to wing, as his speed and skillset were more suited to be used as a winger. This change did wonders for Kempe, and soon as he switched over, he seemed to find his offensive touch once again.
Best Year So Far
Now, in the 2020-21 season, Kempe had the best season of his career. In 56 games, he scored 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points. This gave him a points-per-game average of 0.52, the highest of his career. He was on pace to score about 21 goals and 43 points in a full 82 game NHL season. This would equate to career highs in each of those stats for him.
Throughout the year, Kempe was able to just be a little bit more consistent than years prior, which went a long way. Kempe’s play earned him a promotion as well. By the end of the season, he found himself as a regular on Anze Kopitar‘s wing on the Kings’ top line. Additionally, he was also the Kings’ number one trigger man on their top powerplay unit throughout the year. The left-shot winger would stand parked at the top of the right circle making himself a one-timer option. While he played this role fairly well, his time in it may be limited as heavy shooting prospects like Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, and Martin Chromiak make their way up the ranks into the Kings roster.
No Spot is Forever
Kempe has worked his way onto the Kings’ top-line and has become a dependable scorer on their team. But his spot there is by no means guaranteed. If Kempe wants to remain there, he is going to have to earn it. Kings General Manager Rob Blake has said that he plans to add this offseason, and one has to imagine that a scoring winger (or a certain centre from Buffalo) is near the top of his wish list. Based on the progress Kempe has made throughout his career so far though, there is no reason to believe he won’t keep his spot on the roster entering next season. Kempe is continuing to grow as a player, as he has shown some very positive and encouraging improvements this year.
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