Birthdate: September 13, 1996
Birthplace: Kramfors, Sweden
Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted: 1st Round, 29th overall, in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Entering the 2021-22 season, the buzzword surrounding Kempe was “consistency.” We had seen flashes of his full potential but also long stretches without showing up on the scoresheet. However, last year, the 25-year-old was well-balanced throughout the year, recording 28 points (16-12=28) in the first half of the season followed by 26 points (19-7=26) in the second half.
Kempe tallied a career-high 35 goals, pacing all Kings skaters in that department as well. He had just two points through the first seven games, coinciding with the team’s 1-5-1 start out of the gate before he took off in November.
In the second month of the season, the Swedish forward tallied seven goals, his first of three months in which he achieved the feat. He was really good down the stretch during the Kings’ race for a playoff spot, recording 11 points in 11 games in April while shooting the puck at a chunky 14.0 percent clip.
He, of course, had that unforgettable goal in overtime of Game 5 against Edmonton, driving to the net and beating Oilers netminder Mike Smith, giving Los Angeles a 3-2 lead, with the series heading back to LA.
“He’s become a big-time player for us,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said of Kempe after Game 5 via LA Kings Insider. “He led us in goals this season, he’s got really good legs and he’s got a physical element to his game. If there’s a player I can pick, coming down the wing with any kind of speed, taking it to the net, especially with a team that was tired when they couldn’t get guys off the ice, it would be Adrian.”
The big question heading into this year is whether Kempe can do it again. He got paid handsomely over the summer. Now that he’s no longer in a contract year, “consistency” is still the buzzword. We saw Kempe do a lot of good things last year and take several steps in his development.
He even displayed a certain element of swagger that maybe he hadn’t seen before – shushing the Vegas crowd, chirping back at Huberdeau after Frk tied it late, and holding his hand up to his ear in Edmonton are a few that immediately come to mind.
He figures to once again be atop the Kings lineup, alongside Anze Kopitar and newcomer Kevin Fiala. Kempe and Fiala both had career seasons a year ago, and both will provide the speed on the first line.
The former shot the puck at a 14.2 percent clip overall last year, slightly above his 11.4 percent career average. I certainly don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Kempe to continue shooting the puck at a high clip; frankly, I hope he does.
He’s one of several key pieces that need a strong campaign for the Kings to earn their second consecutive playoff berth and advance beyond the first round.