2024 Exit Interviews – Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, Trevor Moore, Mikey Anderson

Continuing the exit interviews with a look at four members of the team’s emerging group of players beyond the veterans – Kevin Fiala, Adrian Kempe, Trevor Moore and Mikey Anderson.

All four players displayed a ton of positives during the regular season, including Kempe’s career highs in assists and points, as well as Moore’s first 30-goal season. Moore led the team in goals while Kempe led the way in points. Fiala posted his second straight 70-point season while Anderson posted some of his strongest underlying splits.

More from all four players below.

Adrian Kempe & Kevin Fiala

Systematic Conversations
First things first here, both players expressed a desire to potentially evaluate the way the team plays.

Throughout the course of the day, several players were asked about the team’s systems and structure and how the players feel about its effectiveness and long-term future. Kempe and Fiala were two of the strongest voices at hoping to perhaps see something new going forward, at least in certain situations.

Kempe prefaced his comments by noting that he believed the systems used this season were largely successful, adding that making a midseason change might have hurt the Kings more than it might have helped them. The Kings were obviously in a tough position and had the first five games out of the break been 1-4 as they learned a new system, versus 4-1, this might not have even been a playoff team. Kempe believes in having options and noted the team started to work in different systems even at the end of this season.

“Moving forward, I can only speak for myself personally, I would maybe like to – we tried some 1-2-2 here in the playoffs towards the end of the games and stuff like that when we’re chasing games. For me, I think it’s more fun to play a 1-2-2, you get a little bit more aggressive in the neutral zone, you can create more turnovers in terms of that. I think we have a lot of offensive players that can capitalize in terms of that. We’ll see what happens moving forward, but I think there’s some options here that we maybe can do some changes.

Fiala felt that Kempe phrased his comments well but added his own flair to the conversation.

Every system has strengths and weaknesses, otherwise everyone would just play the one that didn’t. Fiala identified some areas he’d like the Kings to be able to improve in and he felt that perhaps comes with changing things up in certain areas.

“I think Juice said the right things, it was the perfect answer. Also for me, it would be a little more fun to create something on forecheck. Right now, we kind of have to break up, in my opinion. The 1-3-1, it’s very effective when they try to go through you. There’s turnovers happening and we can go the other way but if they’re going to rim it every time or chip it every time, that means one guy, we have to sprint back, we have to get the puck out. When there’s guys coming at us with structure and they rim it from the right side and two guys are coming with full heat on the left side against our standing still right winger, it’s not very easy to break it out, you know? So I feel like it would be fun to try something else.

The honesty regarding systems was a bit of a new flavor.

The Kings found a lot of success playing the way that they did and as Kempe admitted, midseason was probably not the time to make those changes. The playoffs obviously didn’t go as planned, but if you don’t even get in it’s that much more of a disappointing season.

As players conduct their exit interviews with management, players like Kempe and Fiala will likely have an opportunity to speak their minds with regards to the best way forward. The Kings have more horses now than when they first implemented their 1-3-1 neutral zone approach. With several unknowns heading into next season, it’ll be interesting to see if they make any changes and if so, what they look like.

Career Bests For Kempe
Career highs in assists (47) and points (75) for Adrian Kempe, who was voted as the team’s MVP for his performance this season.

Kempe developed into an elite goalscorer over the last two seasons, scoring 35 goals two seasons ago and upping that total to 41 last season, as he broke the 40-goal mark for the first time. Expectations were certainly high for Kempe, who met them in a different way. He “only” scored 28 goals in 77 games but excelled as a playmaker. He added four goals and five points against Edmonton in the postseason, his second straight series at or over a point-per-game.

His regular-season production was something he was happy with in many ways, even if he’d have preferred to score more than he did.

Ultimately, Kempe felt the way his points came was simply how things developed. If you said in a vacuum that Kempe would regress from 41 goals to 28, you might think of it as a disappointing season. Were you to say that he’d set career highs in assists and points, you’d have taken it hands down. Both happened, and I think the positives greatly outweighed the negatives.

In Kempe’s own words –

“I think it just kind of fell that way. Obviously, I would have loved to score even more, that’s kind of the player I feel like I’ve turned into, more of a shooter than a passer usually, but yeah, I kind of just fell into that this year, where I got a lot of assists. Kopi and Q did a good job shooting the puck a lot more I felt like. I think it was just kind of fun for me, in a way, it took a little pressure off my shoulders in terms of scoring and I still felt really confident with my game throughout the season. I feel like I don’t think I did too much differently from previous years. I got some lucky assists, but it’s good for confidence too, for sure. It’s something that I can still build on, I think.”

Stability For Fiala
Fiala certainly found more consistency with his linemates this season as opposed to last season. Still though, while there seemed to be two lines that were kept together, finding that home for Fiala when everyone was healthy wasn’t always there.

“It’s tough, it’s not fun, but in other ways, you have to look at the positives that you can play with anybody and do whatever it takes to help the team win.”

12 months ago, Fiala was asked the same question and he expressed a desire to find a permanent home.

This season, the plan was to pair Fiala with Pierre-Luc Dubois, but it didn’t work exactly as planned. He was moved around the lineup throughout portions of the season, never truly finding a home offensively. In November, Fiala moved onto a line with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore, filling the place of the injured Viktor Arvidsson. He remained there for almost all of the regular season, finding a lot of success playing in that spot. When Arvidsson eventually returned, Fiala was on the move again, remaining productive in certain areas but once again, he didn’t have the permanent home that a 70+ point player should have. And the home he’d ultimately like to find as he moves into his third season with the Kings.

“We’ll see what happens, we just lost, I haven’t thought about it, but obviously a goal would be to find a set line,” Fiala said. “It’s an 82-game season, there’s playoffs coming up, I don’t think there’s going to be one set [lineup] the whole season all the way. There has to be some adjustments and changes so it’s not bad to play with a lot of people.”

Despite moving around, playing more than 90 minutes at 5-on-5 with seven different forwards, Fiala posted his second consecutive season of 70+ points. Regardless of where he’s played, he’s been productive in the regular season.

In the playoffs, though, he had just two points (1-1-2) from five games played. No King had more scoring chances than Fiala did in the five-game series, as he totaled 15, including a team-high 13 in 5-on-5 situations. A disappointing end for Fiala to what was an excellent regular season, to not produce more despite creating chances. He took personal ownership of the playoff production, vowing to deliver next time around.

“Yeah, a lot of frustration, I didn’t do enough, that’s the bottom line, I have to be better,” he said. “I didn’t play bad, I didn’t play good, kind of in between, I didn’t do much. If you look at the chances, Jimmy told me I had a lot of chances so it was just putting them in and I obviously didn’t. It’s tough right now.”

The thing with Fiala is that even if it hasn’t been perfect, his effort has never been questioned and he’s been productive through it all. Optimism that Year 3 is when it all comes together for a dynamic and talented player.

Trevor Moore & Mikey Anderson

Systematic Conversations, Part 2
Like Fiala and Kempe, Moore and Anderson were also asked about the systems and structure of the team. The answers were a bit different, with both seeing the benefits to perhaps being a bit more diverse in how they play in certain situations, but acknowledging the strengths of the 1-3-1 and the way the Kings play it.

For Anderson, it’s the only way he’s known since he came into the NHL.

When you play the same way, that style and approach becomes almost like clockwork. He knows it like the back of his hand and he’s comfortable playing it. Others have agreed and that makes it the thing the players know best. With that being said, Anderson wasn’t opposed to making changes either. He believes the 1-3-1 and the way the Kings have played in certain situations can be successful, in the right ways, even if it’s not always the default.

“Ever since I’ve been here, that’s been what we’ve done, so it almost feels kind of second nature to what we do,” Anderson said. “I think there’s times where it’s been great, there’s other times when maybe we could be, I feel like we need to push forward a little bit more and maybe be more aggressive throughout the game. Obviously, that’s not for us to decide, but I think everyone sees it differently. Some games it’s awesome, some games I feel like we maybe need a little change, teams can figure out how to get through it, it makes it tough, but sometimes it makes it a little easier.”

For Anderson, it’s coming from the perspective of a defenseman. Moore plays up front, as Kempe and Fiala do. Moore is a speedy player who is clearly capable of creating offensively, whether it be with his shot or his legs.

His perspective, I thought, was interesting.

He feels, as I think many do, that the 1-3-1 specifically is magnified more than it should be. As he pointed out, the Kings are far from the only team that runs a variation of it. The Florida Panthers and New York Rangers – two teams in Round 2 of the playoffs – were mentioned as teams won have the 1-3-1 in their systems.

“I don’t know, I personally think the 1-3-1 gets a little bit of a bad rap, I think a lot of teams do it,” Moore said. “It looks maybe a little bit different than ours, there’s a lot of variations of it too.”

The key for Moore is versatility.

He’d like the team to perhaps be a little bit more versatile in being able to change in between systems. Like Kempe said, Moore indicated that the Kings started to deviate a bit towards the end of the season, working a 1-2-2 approach into their game, particularly when trailing. It’s hard to make those changes on the fly, but the acknowledgement that things changed at least in certain situations is a plus. That’s the approach Moore is hopeful to see going forward.

“I would like to see maybe a variation right, where it’s like, this team’s doing this, maybe we get into a 1-2-2 tonight,” he said. “I think we started doing that a little bit more toward the end of the season. I think that’d be a good option, but I don’t hate the 1-3-1, I think that maybe we try to do it a little too much.”

Scoring Moore Goals
It was a huge year for Moore in a few different ways.

Last season was perhaps the most difficult of his professional career. He dealt with injuries and missed a lot of time in the second half of the season and didn’t always look like himself when he came back. Coming into training camp, on the first year of a contract extension, things looked different starting with the first preseason game in Australia. Moore looked like Moore. From there on, he never looked back.

“It meant a lot to play 82 games this year, and then obviously individual stuff, it was great to see the puck go in early and kind of build that confidence after last year,” he said. “It was good for sure.”

Moore laughed when the follow up question was if 30 goals can be expected from him every single season.

“I’ll take it game-by-game. I don’t know if I can totally guarantee that kind of stuff, but it was really cool and I can hopefully do it again.”

If that’s the new norm, then the Kings have found a guy who wants to be here more than he wants to be anywhere else and a guy who is an impactful contributor when he’s at his best. The work ethic has always been there and to add that level of offensive production was a terrific sight.

For Moore, the on-ice changes weren’t all he had going for him.

The Moore family had their first child, a son, during last year’s postseason. Phillip Danault joked in his own exit interview that the biggest difference in Moore’s game was that he’s a dad now. Perhaps a bit of that dad strength on the wrist shot.

“I expected it to be a little harder than it was,” Moore admitted. “I think that coming home to my wife and my son every day was such a blessing to get away from the rink, go to the park and do those things outside of hockey. I think this year I kind of committed to just having fun and enjoying all of it, that was a big thing for me. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure all year, honestly. If things didn’t go great, it was just turn the page and move on to the next game.”

Good mentality to have heading into next season.

The Evolution of Mikey Anderson
As a player, Mikey Anderson is defined.

He’s a top-four defenseman who is capable of logging difficult matchups, excelling in his own zone while capably moving pucks, even if not necessarily turning that into a ton of offensive production, though he did post a career-best 16 assists.

Last February, he signed an eight-year extension to commit his long-term future to the Kings. He’ll be 25 years old when training camp rolls around in September. Anderson has always been a leader beyond his experience, a vocal voice in the locker room even as a younger, inexperienced player. As he continues to grow, his role continues to evolve within the room. Anderson is a guy who provides that intermediary leader between the captains and the younger players. It’s a role he cherishes and one he embraces.

“They’re not a whole lot younger than me, but still, the way they come to the rink, they see life different from the older guys that we look to as leaders, so maybe they look to us to kind of learn the way, while we’re learning from the other guys still.”

Anderson referred to players like he and Moore as guys who can be in the middle. A player like Adrian Kempe, who wore and “A” when Danault was out this season, falls into that group as well. The Kings have strong leadership but leadership can’t just be the guys with letters. Having players like Anderson who can excel in that role is also important.

Part of being a leader is taking a more active role in evaluating where the team is at.

Anderson struck a good balance in his interview. He believes in the group that the Kings have here but acknowledged that the group in place has played now three times in the playoffs and has yet to come through the first round. That’s got to change. In Anderson’s eyes, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to blow up the group in order to get there. He does feel like many of the right pieces are in place for a team that has to take the next step.

“I firmly believe we’ve got the right pieces. Obviously, stuff happens where you maybe change a guy here or there, but I thought we have a group of guys that guys bring different skillsets, guys kind of mesh well together, it seems we’ve got a great group of guys that love being together. I thought throughout the year, we had times against top teams where we played with them. Obviously we haven’t shown anything in the playoffs and us being at the level that some of those teams might be at but again, we’re still learning. Some of the younger guys, that’s three years of playoffs that haven’t gone our way at all but I think we’ve got a good group. I think it’s just making sure that when it comes to it, we get the effort consistently, we play like we need to, to win the games that matter.”

That’s all the Kings talk for today…..but Go Reign Go!

Ontario hosts Game 2 in a couple of hours, in its best-of-five series with Abbotsford. The Reign currently lead 1-0 and could take a two-game advantage heading North to Canada for Game 3 on Wednesday. Big opportunity on home ice to win another, full coverage from Jared Shafran after the game!

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