2023 Kings Seasons In Review – Adrian Kempe

Completing the first line this afternoon with a look at Adrian Kempe’s 2022-23 season in review. Kempe has established himself as Anze Kopitar’s right-hand man over the last two seasons, with this season cementing his status as a dynamic, top-line winger in the NHL.

Adrian Kempe
LAK Statline – 82 games played, 41 goals, 26 assists, +22 rating,554 penalty minutes
Playoff Statline – 6 games played, 5 goals, 3 assists, -3 rating, 2 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 52.2% (-0.1%), SCF% – 52.6% (-0.5%), HDCF% – 52.1% (-3.2%)

Kempe’s season from just about every standpoint was very strong. Career high in goals, career high in points, productive on the power play, strong penalty killer, playoff performer……you name it, he brought it. Kempe entered this season with one first-line caliber season, but the question was could he sustain it? There is no longer a question that he could, as he not only sustained it but exceeded it. Kempe also grew as a leader, evolving in the locker room as a part of the team’s leadership group. In just about every aspect, it was a strong showing from number nine.

Trending Up – Adrian Kempe scored 41 goals this season. 41 freaking goals. The list of Kings players over the last 30 years to score 40+ goals in a season – Luc Robitaille, Adrian Kempe. That’s the list. Kempe’s season followed up his 35-goal breakout campaign from last year and his 76 goals over the last two seasons rank inside the NHL’s Top-15. His 59 non even-strength goals rank eighth in the league in that span and he was one of just three players in the NHL, along with Connor McDavid and Tim Stutzle, to score 25+ EVG, 10+ PPG and 3+ SHG. Kempe was the Pacific Division’s leading goalscorer, Oilers outstanding, and his offensive production this season was even better than the expectation he created.

Kempe’s playoff performance also has to be mentioned, because although the Kings bowed out in six games against Edmonton, it was in spite of Kempe’s high level of play. With five goals and eight points during the postseason, Kempe led all Kings in both categories. Just three players across the NHL had more goals in the first round than Kempe, who also ranked fourth in the league in shots on goal. Not every player had a strong series, though several Kings did, but Todd McLellan believed Kempe was perhaps the team’s best player as a whole.

“We’ve talked a lot about Adrian and his game, how it’s evolved and I think in this series, his size, his legs, his tenacity are all allowing him to be an effective player night after night,” McLellan said between Games 5 and 6. “It’s not every shift, nobody can be effective every shift, but when he does get the opportunity to use those three attributes, he does a really good job with them. He’s arguably been our best player in the series.”

Trending Down – Adrian Kempe scored four goals in his first four games played this season. From December 9 through the end of the season, Adrian Kempe scored the seventh most goals in the NHL. In between, however, Kempe had just four goals from 25 games, in what was clearly his largest dry spell of the season. For a stretch of games, Kempe was moved from RW1 to 3C, with the Kings looking to jumpstart both he and the team, though his switch to his natural position didn’t provide a long-term fit. While he was adequate at center, there’s a reason Kempe was moved to the wing in the first place. His 5+ games in the middle were a subtle reminder. It’s a small blip on an overall radar that saw him score 37 goals from the other 57 games played, but it did take longer than you might have hoped for Kempe to find his stride.

What else was really negative about Kempe’s season? That he puts bananas on his tacos? The most glaring second talking point would be a replication of the one used in Kopitar’s article on Saturday – Plan A didn’t work. As noted in that piece, Plan A was to have Kempe and Kopitar flanked by Kevin Fiala, but Plan B seemed to work better, with those players playing on separate lines. Teams choose to deploy their players in a variety of different ways, but for the Kings, using the three highest-paid forwards together did not work as hoped in Year 1. Could that change going forward? Potentially. Has to be noted though that the team’s leading goalscorer and the player with the best points-per-game average didn’t play together much at all at even strength during the second half of the season, despite being projected there back in September.

2023-24 Outlook– Kempe has three seasons remaining on the four-year contract extension he signed with the Kings last summer. At the time, the Kings bet on Kempe after a breakout season. Kempe followed up that season with an ever better one, as he became the first Kings player in nearly 30 years to break 40 goals in a season. Now, that deal looks like a terrific steal for the organization, with Kempe more than outplaying his $5.5 million cap hit.

Kempe will figure to slot in exactly where you would expect him to next season, assuming all remains as you’d expect it to moving forward. He is this team’s first-line right winger, with 76 goals over the last two seasons. Kempe has established himself and his place in the NHL and for a player who spent years trying to figure out exactly where he fit into the puzzle, he’ll enter his second straight season with a very clear vision of what that is for him. A testament to the work he’s put in and the growth he’s shown in his game. The Kings are lucky to have him going forward.

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