When the Los Angeles Kings drafted Adrain Kempe with the 29th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, they knew they had options on where the Swedish dynamo could play next year. Now it is time for the Kings and Kempe to choose which option is best for the skilled winger, who is still two months shy of his 18th birthday.
The most obvious pick would be to leave him in Sweden for at least another year where he will surely see an uptick in production next season. His Swedish club, Modo, is one of the best producers of hockey talent in the world, with its alumni including Peter Forsberg and Victor Hedman. The bullish power forward would benefit from playing against men and the wider ice surface would certainly lead to improvements in his skating.
Staying in Sweden isn’t the only way for Kempe to hone his skills playing against men, as he could suit up for the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. Playing on a smaller ice surface could be beneficial to developing his power forward game as he’d be able to assert himself physically with more ease than on the wider ice in Sweden. He’d also be able to come up and play for the Kings if his play was up to par and they needed the body. For a championship-caliber team like the Kings, it would be foolish to rule out this option.
Kempe was drafted in the 2013 CHL Import Draft by the Barrie Colts and could suit up for the OHL squad next year. With his size and hockey smarts, Kempe would be a dominating force playing against his own age group. It’s also worth noting that Barrie’s head coach is Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk, and he could surely show the young winger a thing or two on how to score goals (Hawerchuk scored over 500 in the NHL). On the flip side, after playing against men, it’d almost be a regression for Kempe to play against teenagers.
If it were up to me, I’d send Kempe back to Sweden for the year and let him develop in his home country for at least another season. Having said that, the Kings have development camp in L.A. next week and Kempe will be a topic of much discussion. After a week in California with the Kings’ staff, Kempe’s future will surely be a little clearer.
One thing is for certain regardless of where he plays next season, Kempe is a prized prospect who has a bright future which personifies the rich getting richer in terms of organizational talent. Suffice is to say, general manager Dean Lombardi wouldn’t have it any other way.