A Month of Gratitude: Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo

Today we’re thankful for two not-quite-rookies anymore.

A season like this is tough to watch, and we all find ourselves being pretty hard on the Los Angeles Kings as they struggle to right the ship. For the rest of November, we’ll be taking some time each day to share why we’re thankful for each player on the team (and some Kings of years past). If you’d like to share your love for a Kings player, past or present, check out our call for submissions.

Adrian Kempe

During the 2016-17 season, once it became pretty clear that all hope was lost for the Kings’ playoff hopes, the call to bring Adrian Kempe up from the minors was pretty loud in the fan base. Let the kids play, the idea went, so that at least they get a taste of the NHL game in an otherwise lost season. Kempe ended up playing 25 games for the Kings at the end of the season, putting up six points over those games. He’s been a fixture in the Kings’ lineup ever since then.

Kempe’s in an odd position as someone with a skill-set better suited towards top six minutes, yet the organization keeps insisting that he’s a center. It’s an experiment that doesn’t always pay off, which is a shame, because when Kempe’s good, he’s very good. And when he’s frustrated, well — welcome to the penalty box.

But this post is about reasons why we love Kings players, and one of the most entertaining things about Adrian Kempe is his self-confidence. Whether it’s his life as told via social media, his presence on the ice, or the way that he carries himself off of it, Kempe knows that he’s good. He’s cocky, and in a league filled with players who don’t want to show much personality, Kempe’s living personification of the humblebrag is pretty refreshing.

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And while I’m never one to want to spend much time glorifying fighting, we can’t ever possibly forget Adrian Kempe’s first (and hopefully only) NHL fight:

So thanks for the fun so far, Adrian. Let’s hope there are many more goals to come in the future.

Alex Iafallo

Alex Iafallo joined the Kings as one of the top college free agent prospects, and he began surprising Kings fans right from the start by not only pushing to make the opening night roster, but claiming a spot on the first line. It’s not often you find a rookie skating alongside Anze Kopitar, but Iafallo’s arrival felt like the Kings had turned over a new leaf. The idea of an untested rookie earning top-line minutes felt unheard of.

Iafallo’s been a natural since the very start, though, fitting in seamlessly with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. It had to have been a great learning experience for the first-year pro to be skating alongside season veterans.

By the time the end of last season rolled around, Iafallo was still working on developing his scoring touch for this level of competition, but he was still noticeable up and down the ice. For as great as it is to see Trevor Lewis constantly be recognized by the team as the unsung hero, Iafallo easily could have won that team award, as well, flying under the radar but playing a strong all-around game.

JFTC reader Cynthia told us she’d say thank you to Iafallo “for just being fun to watch, whether he has the puck or not. Dude hustles every shift and just seems to have a knack for being in position to make good things happen.”

Iafallo’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, and we’re looking forward to watching him hustle on the ice — and maybe chip in a few goals, too.

As a bonus, today’s “month” of gratitude boys also are pretty thankful for each other, too.

Previously in our “Month” of Gratitude series: Kyle Clifford | Nate Thompson | Mike Amadio | Paul LaDue | Jake Muzzin | Alec Martinez | Peter Budaj | Cal Petersen | Ilya Kovalchuk | Trevor Lewis | Dustin Brown | Derek Forbort | Dion Phaneuf | Oscar Fantenberg