By Andy Tonge If hockey doesn’t work out for
Adrian Kempe, perhaps a career in fashion is in order. The 18-year-old Swede made a bold clothing statement after Game 3 of the AHL’s Eastern final in Hartford. Walking out of the dressing room in suit and tie, Kempe dropped his flip-flops on the ground, put them on, took a quick picture of his ensemble to post on Twitter, and walked across the street to the team hotel. While the zany Kempe made the mistake of not packing dress shoes for the two-day road trip, what he did on the ice helped fans and teammates alike forget what he did off it. Carrying a 2-0 series lead versus the Wolf Pack onto the road, Kempe scored in Games 3 and 4, as his Manchester Monarchs swept their way into the Calder Cup final. Kempe was named the No. 1 star of the series-clinching game. Having completed his season in the Swedish League, the Los Angeles Kings’ 2014 first-round pick embarked on a journey across the pond, where he joined the NHL club’s primary affiliate in Manchester, which sat in first place for nearly the entire AHL season. In his second game, Kempe lined up on the first line, centered by all-star Jordan Weal.
As he settled in, both on the team and in a new country, Kempe found himself on a line with 22-year-old Nick Shore, who spent most of the season in the NHL. Wherever Kempe has played in his time in Manchester, he has shown flashes of why he was a first-round pick. He doesn’t turn 19 until mid-September, meaning if he was born two weeks later, he wouldn’t have been eligible until the ’15 draft.
The most noticeable aspect of Kempe’s game is his speed. On his first shift in North America, he scooped up a puck, blew past a defender and nearly scored. With each passing day, he has felt more comfortable. An added emphasis has been put on how he plays defensively, where there is room for growth. “I need to be better in our own zone when we don’t have the puck,” Kempe said. “I work on it every day in practice, and in games, too. That’s the biggest thing.” Moving to another continent is never easy, especially doing it at a young age, but Kempe has had plenty of help. “It’s been exciting,” Kempe said. “I came here two months ago. I got into the group pretty fast.” His off-ice transition was aided when
Paul Bissonnette, better known by fans as ‘BizNasty’, took him in as his roommate for the duration of the season. Next up in the evolution of Kempe will be another move next season, as he will either make the NHL as a 19-year-old or join the Kings new AHL affiliate in Ontario, Calif. The left winger is optimistic. “It’s a great organization,” he said. “They take care of me – the whole team and staff. I’m excited to move on with L.A.” Hopefully he remembers to pack his dress shoes the next time he gets promoted.
This feature appears in the 2014-15 Season Commerative edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.