LOS ANGELES — Through a couple of weeks of the NHL season, the Los Angeles Kings have one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL. A team that struggled to score last season is now scoring at will on a nightly basis. Several players have made big contributions, few more so than Adrian Kempe, who's trying to repeat his breakout 2021-22 season.
Kempe's breakout season was marked by more consistent play. He was more consistent on an individual level but also consistent with linemates and his role. The personal stability elevated Kempe's play.
His 436 minutes with Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo were by far the most he's ever played with one line, and He was also given the defined role of top six, goalscoring winger. And it all worked. In the past, he had jumped between middle and bottom six center or winger, never able to fully establish a consistent spot on the team. He's played nearly every minute of five-on-five hockey with Kopitar again this season, and it's paying off well.
"I have to expect myself to be at least as good as I was last year," Kempe said of trying to repeat last season's success.
Confidence is a word Kempe uses a lot, and he's clearly flowing with confidence this season. In the last week, Kempe has blown a puck over Andrei Vasilevskiy's shoulder and wired a one-timer home against Toronto. The goal against Vasilevskiy, in particular, shows a confident and capable shooter. Few players in the league can overpower a set Vasilevskiy, and Kempe proved to be one of those players.
He's also found a new linemate recently in breakout star Gabe Vilardi. After Kevin Fiala struggled a bit to mesh with Kopitar and Kempe, Vilardi was elevated to the top line against Toronto. Early signs are positive, with the line controlling the majority of possession and scoring chances.
The sample size is small, and Kempe's 22% shooting percentage is unsustainable, but soon the question will shift from, "can he score 30 goals again?" To, "can he break 40?" If he continues his play.