Will Adrian Kempe be a part of the highly anticipated LA Kings future or be passed up by the upcoming young talent?
I remember exactly where I was on February 16, 2017; El Matador in Costa Mesa for a celebration of my uncle’s birthday. This date had nothing to do with the party itself, but the LA Kings were playing against the then Phoenix Coyotes. So when we were seated, I made sure to get a seat by the only television in the restaurant.
The reason I had to watch this game was to catch the debut of Adrian Kempe.
Kempe was drafted 29th overall in the first round of the 2014 NHL entry draft. At the time of the draft, I did not know much about Kempe. Only that he had been playing in the Swedish men’s league and was turning heads. His report on HockeysFuture.com was very intriguing, though, to say the least.
"His mean streak and distaste for losing drive him to compete. Skating-wise, Kempe gains good speed and has a nice, fluent stride; moving well laterally. In the offensive zone he heads for the net with every opportunity and can be quite vicious in fighting for pucks in and around the goal mouth."
Wow. What’s not to like with that. Exactly what the LA Kings needed at the time, some youth with tenacity and speed. Something the team was extremely lacking.
The WJC and the Monarchs Calder Cup run
In 2015 Kempe was an integral player for Team Sweden at the World Juniors, and he was very impressive. He put up a total of eight points in six games, helping Sweden to a fourth-place finish.
Shortly after the 2015 WJC, Kempe was called up to the Manchester Monarchs to help with their run in the Calder Cup playoffs, and help he did. He was a great addition to then AHL-affiliate for the Kings, contributing eight goals and one assist in 17 total playoff games, on the way to a Calder Cup championship for the team from Manchester.
He followed up a solid 2015 with another good development year. He was a part of the inaugural season for the Ontario Reign and then would represent Team Sweden again in the 2016 World Juniors, scoring a total of eight points in seven games played. Although they would fall short of a medal again, losing to Auston Matthews and company for Team USA in the bronze medal game. But the future for Adrian Kempe in the NHL looked darn good.
In his highly anticipated debut against the Coyotes in 2017, Kempe was immediately put in a position to succeed offensively. He played on the left side of the first line with Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli. Unfortunately, the LA Kings would fall short to the Coyotes 5-3, and Kempe finished with no points and was a minus-one in over 15 minutes of playing time.
Kempe would go on to play a total of 25 games for the Kings to finish the 16-17 season, ending with six total points.
In four years with the Kings, Kempe has never finished with more than 37 points in a full season. For a top-six forward with all the expectations that go with being a first-round pick, that’s not great. It’s frustrating because I’m sure all Kings fans will agree that there have been flashes of greatness from Kempe, which makes it seem that he has the traits to be a top-six forward in the NHL.
Even though he has not been much of an impact offensively in his tenure with the Kings so far, he has posted favorable possession numbers on some bad Kings teams. While posting a 51.9% CF for his career, Kempe has proved there is some positive flow to his game.
Is there a future for Kempe with the LA Kings?
The upcoming 2021 season for Adrian Kempe with the LA Kings should be an important one to establish his future with the club. He finally has some stability at head coach with Todd McLellan after going through a few years of unknown and turnover. And once again, he is being placed in a situation to succeed.
Playing on a line with the young star playmaker in Gabriel Vilardi, Kempe will be asked to contribute more offensively. If not, the future talent may take him over.