With training camps looming ahead in the distance, like land to a sailor, fans and media gobble up everything that signals the start of hockey. While most clubs are contemplating who will represent their team, the Los Angeles Kings are in a pretty unique spot. With most of their squad (sorry, Willie Mitchell) returning, the Kings boast an eerily similar team to the one that won Lord Stanley’s Cup last June. With no room for incoming players or prospects, General Manager Dean Lombardi could shift his focus to projects, which are players that have potential that they can grow into and won’t immediately be called upon at the NHL level. Looking for the next big thing, Lomardi selected Swedish winger Adrian Kempe. He won’t regret it.
Fitting the Selection Criteria
Every team has a trait or attribute that they are seeking in a player. While almost every team has a different idea of what they desire, the Kings have consistently assembled a crew of big, physical wingers. Kempe fits the mold like a glove. At 6’2″, Kempe has a sizeable body with room to fill out his frame.
We’ve seen many big-bodied wingers in the Daryl Sutter’s lineups of the past and present, including Dustin Penner, Kyle Clifford, and Dwight King. Penner, now an unrestricted free agent, is a 6’4″ winger who can fill multiple role on the ice. While Clifford is most commonly known as an enforcer, he is an underrated passer. King is an improving talent, a solidly built guy at 6’4″ 23o pounds, but also one who scored 15 goals and dished out 15 assists this past season.
But sizable wingers are not solely restricted to the bottom half of the lineup. Jeff Carter, Jarrett Stoll, and Dustin Brown all bring some punch to the top half. Carter is a solid 6’4″ 212 pound scoring machine, and Brown is known for plastering opponents into the boards. Just like these players, Kempe has scoring potential and the large frame to make an impact in the lineup in the years to come.
What Are Kempe’s Strengths?
Having already mentioned Kempe’s somewhat lanky frame, he cannot be missed on the ice due to his extremely aggressive style of play. Unafraid of any contact, he intimidates defenders when he barrels down the ice. While not all big-bodied players can skate with fluidity, Kempe doesn’t have a jerky skating motion and is an excellent skater for his age. After dishing out 16 assists in 20 games as a 17 year old, Kempe was called up from Modo U-20 onto the senior team. Playing in Sweden’s first division, Kempe notched 11 points in 45 games. For someone who would be a junior in high school playing in one of the best leagues in the world, Kempe should poise and played well above his age.
When Will Kempe Make An Impact?
Los Angeles Kings’ Director of European Scouting Christian Ruutu, when asked if Kempe was ‘A Kings type of player’, definitely believed he was what the Kings desired. “We see him as a King. He’s got the speed. He’s got the size. He has bite in his game, and there’s a second effort in his game. All the intangibles we’re looking at, Adrian has that, and we’re really happy he was still available at this time.”
Coming into training camp, no spots in the lineup are up for grabs. Forwards hoping to skate in warmer weather and make the trip from Manchester to Los Angeles find themselves out of luck. However, Kempe’s smarts on the ice and aggressive style will certainly make an impression on the coaching staff. He could get limited action with the big league club as soon as next season, as long as he continues his development and shines in training camp. Within a couple seasons, Kings fans will have the pleasure of watching Kempe tear up the Western Conference.