Adrian Kempe is one of the top European skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. The 6’1″ (some say 6’2″, 180 pound, left-handed winger will likely be a top 15-20 pick. Kempe plays a solid game and usually lines up on the right side, despite his left-handed shot.
In 20 games in the Swedish Junior League this season (a U20 league, not a U18 league) Kempe averaged almost a point per game, scoring three goals and adding 16 assists (19pts). In 45 games in the Swedish Hockey League (the professional Swedish League) Kepme recorded five goals and six assists.
Although 11 points in 45 games does not seem very impressive, it must be remembered that Kempe has now experienced the grind of playing against grown men for an extended period of time. Unlike many of the North American draft prospects who have only played against players between the ages of 16-19, Kempe has played against professional hockey players in their 20s and 30s.
What Will A Team Get If They Draft Him?
Whichever team selects Kempe will receive a potential top six power forward. When looking through scouting reports of Kempe, the words “bullish” and “strong” come up fairly often. For a guy his size, he has solid hands and good mobility. He has the three S’s that everyone looks for: skating, size, and skill.
Although it is unknown how “NHL-ready” Kempe is, it may not be a long time before he cracks the NHL ranks. Having spent a year playing with professional hockey players, the physical adjustment to the NHL will not be an issue for Kempe like it will be for many prospects. However, even after cracking an NHL line-up, Kempe will still need to adjust from playing on the bigger European ice to the smaller rinks in North America. He will have to make faster decisions and have a swift reaction time.
His most Underrated Skill
Although much will be made on draft day regarding Kempe’s offensive abilities and size, his two-way game is worth noting. Kempe is smart in his own zone and can make smart passes to move his team up the ice. Goran Stubb, CSS’s director of European Scouting, had this to say of Kempe’s game:
He has a good defensive game for a player with his offensive skills; mobile, solid and strong. He’s a power forward, strong along the boards with smooth hands and is a very speedy skater. He’s a solid two-way forward
Kempe will be drafted for his offense, skating, and size, but it would be unwise to sleep on his two-way talent.
What He Still Needs To Work On
When looking at a 6’1″-6’2″ forward, you expect to see them at 200lbs or more. In some cases, a tall player in the upper 190s is serviceable for the NHL, but Kempe sits between 178-187lbs (depending on reports). Even though he is well adjusted to the physical game of men older/bigger than him, it would not hurt for him to add some muscle. In the NHL, Kempe will have to go up against defensemen who are bigger, stronger, and faster than those in the SHL.
Much of his growing, both in stature and in his game, will likely come in his first few years in the NHL. With his experience, I think that we will see Kempe in the NHL by the 2015-2016 season (I’d make him a dark horse to crack a roster for the upcoming season). However, he may not be making the impact that you would expect from a first round pick until 2017, 2018, or 2019.
For more of Adrian Kempe, see this video of his highlights: