Our countdown to the 2016-17 season continues, with 29 days to go...
Happy Birthday, Adrian Kempe!
Wait, sorry, grattas... grottis... how do you spell that in Swedish?
Thanks, Kings. Knew you wouldn’t let me down.
Yes, the 29th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft just turned 20 years old, and now that his age starts with a 2, it’s going to feel like his NHL debut is a lot closer. The nice thing about playing in LA’s organization, though, is that there’s no pressure yet to break through. Five of the other players chosen in the last ten picks of the 2014 first round have already made their NHL debut, three of them for playoff teams. No one expected Kempe to do that. He wasn’t going to get that chance unless three or four more forwards got hurt, and that’s just fine.
In fact, picks 23, 28, and 30 haven’t even gotten a chance to play in the AHL yet, and Kempe not only played, he held his own to the tune of 28 points in 55 games. So this is far from a decelerated path Kempe is taking. And given the number of competitors for a forward spot with the Los Angeles Kings this year, it won’t be disappointing if Kempe doesn’t appear at Staples in 2016-17.
That’s not to say he won’t face any scrutiny this year, though. Kempe will be expected to shoulder an increased scoring load in Ontario, especially if Nic Dowd and Michael Mersch make the big club. We saw Valentin Zykov falter under the weight of expectations last season, and though Kempe outperformed him in a similar position, that Zykov trade makes Kempe the sole “pedigree” forward prospect down in the AHL.
After one season of adaptation, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Kempe can do with the Reign this season. And if he doesn’t immediately catch fire, just remind me to be patient. After all, he’s still a year away from being able to drink beer out of the Cup... what’s the rush?