Looking to become a leader for the younger LA Kings players, Adrian Kempe says overall team experience will lead to more consistency.
LA Kings general manager Rob Blake responded to Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar‘s comments in their year-end exit interviews, citing frustration with three losing seasons. Doughty, specifically, suggested that the front office be proactive in free agency rather than solely relying on the prospects to develop linearly.
Blake heard their sentiments, and his first move of the offseason was acquiring Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators. The former 30-plus goal scorer has 61 games of playoff experience under his belt, in addition to being a prolific goal-scorer. He’s expected to begin the year on the Kings’ top line next to Anze Kopitar, but he’s already familiar with forward Adrian Kempe.
The two played for Team Sweden in the World Championships during the summer of 2018, and now they’ll have the chance to play together again.
“He can bring that offensive ability that we kind of need and a lot more experience,” Kempe said of what Arvidsson brings to the table. “You know, he’s been playing for a while, and he’s been doing so good in Nashville. It’s going to be good for the younger guys, and I think he’s just an all-around good player.”
Entering a contract year, Kempe is coming off his best season in the abbreviated 2021 schedule, scoring 14 goals with 15 assists. He was a key component on the Kings’ powerplay, often guiding the drop pass through the neutral zone and into the attacking zone. From a production standpoint, the 25-year-old had his best year on the man advantage, accumulating four goals and 14 points.
Kempe is now part of the Kings’ secondary core, along with guys like Alex Iafallo and Trevor Moore, and he’ll be viewed as a player that some of the younger prospects will turn to for questions. Among those include Rasmus Kupari, who Kempe — along with Moore — accounted for a 61.1 xGF%, albeit in a three-game sample size last year.
“I think last year was a good year for me,” the Swedish forward noted. “As a team, too, it was a step in the right direction, and just keep building my game. Just getting more experience every season, and that’s a good thing. Now there’s younger guys coming in. You got to step up and be a leader, and I think that’s something I want to do as well. It’s a good chance for all of us to take another step in all situations because we want to get back to the playoffs.”
Kempe was the Swiss Army knife for the LA Kings last year, playing along all four lines. And by the end of the year, he was logging the majority of his minutes on the Kings’ top line in place of Dustin Brown, who was sidelined in early May for the remainder of the year.
Inconsistency has been the buzzword surrounding Kempe for the majority of his career, scoring in bunches but then disappearing for long stretches at a time. Last year was a step in the right direction, not only for the Kings but for Adrian Kempe. Now, it’s all about replicating that production — this time over a full NHL schedule.
“It’s one of the hard things to keep that consistency, especially now that we’re going back to 82 games,” Kempe admitted. “There’s going to be a lot of games and a lot more games than we’ve been playing in the last couple of seasons. I think we’re more experienced now, and I feel like we don’t have to just trust Kopi [Anze Kopitar] and Brownie [Dustin Brown]. We have more experience, and I think that’s going to make the team more consistent.”
Kempe and the Kings will begin the 2021 season on October 14, hosting the Vegas Golden Knights.