EL SEGUNDO — If the Kings are looking within the organization for answers, as their eerily quiet offseason would suggest, there are plenty of eyes fixed on Adrian Kempe at training camp.
The 21-year-old Swedish center isn’t just a potential source of offense so desperately needed to balance one of the best defensive units in the NHL. He possesses the fastest-rising commodity in the NHL – speed.
“I think that’s why they drafted me, because I’m a fast player and a pretty big guy,” Kempe said Thursday during the Kings’ second day of training camp. “The team needs more speed and I’m going to try and bring as much as I can and help my teammates to play a faster game.”
While the majority of the league has modernized its approach with speed, the Kings held tightly to the possession-based, physical style that won them Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014.
As a front office that was overhauled in the offeseason looks to adapt to a faster NHL, Kempe is perhaps their best representation of the future.
What makes Kempe’s potential impact this season significant is that he’s less of a worry to compromise their defense.
“There’s not many guys who can carry speed like he does,” King coach John Stevens said. “But we like the fact that he’s shown the ability to be a 200-foot player and that’s what we’re going to need from him. He can fly around the ice, but he’s got to be committed in all three zones.”
Kempe’s 6-foot-2, 202-pound frame was a big reason the Kings made him their first-round draft pick in 2014 (29th overall).
He was called up to the Kings in February of last season to make his NHL debut. Kempe showed enough promise to stick around for 25 games during the team’s push for a playoff berth, during which he had two goals and four assists.
Last year was his second full season in North America. In 46 games with the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, he had 12 goals and 20 points.
OPEN GOALIE TRYOUTS