LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Adrian Kempe grew up in Sweden idolizing Marian Gaborik, and he models his game after Dustin Brown.
He’ll likely get a chance to play with both members of the Los Angeles Kings after they drafted the forward in the first round Friday night.
“I’m really excited to be drafted by the Stanley Cup champions,” Kempe said. “It’s a really good thing.”
The 17-year-old Kempe was the Kings’ only pick of the opening round, and the smooth two-way forward plans to play at least another season in his native Sweden before even considering a move stateside.
Along with Gaborik and Brown, Kempe also admires Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. He has enjoyed watching the Kings during their run to two Stanley Cup titles in three seasons.
“I’ve seen them a few years now, and I think that’s a really good team,” he said. “They have really skilled play, too. I’m a big, strong player and a good skater, so I think my play will fit well with them.”
Kempe played against grown men in Sweden’s top league last season, scoring 19 points in 20 games while driving the net aggressively. He usually skated on a depth line while playing at centre and on the wing for Modo, the famed club which produced Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins and Victor Hedman.
Already 6-foot-2, Kempe could turn into a solid two-way forward for the Kings, who are willing to wait for his maturation.
The Kings have done well at the back half of the first round in recent years. With their first-round pick after winning the title in 2012, Los Angeles chose forward Tanner Pearson, who scored 12 points in 24 games on a line with Jeff Carter this spring during the Kings’ run to their second title.