With the 2022-23 season now in the review mirror, it’s time to start really looking forward to the 2023-24 season.
Expectations for the Los Angeles Kings have risen, and with that, comes higher expectations for individual players.
Adrian Kempe will kick off a series of articles discussing expectations for each player heading into next season.
Kempe’s 2022-23 Season:
What a season it was for Kempe last year.
After his breakout 2021-22 campaign, Kempe and the coaching staff were quick to temper expectations last summer. Kempe repeatedly said that another 30-goal season wasn’t a guarantee and Todd McLellan pointed out how many empty net goals Kempe scored frequently.
Of course, Kempe did hit the 30-goal mark and did so in just 65 games. He would once again set career highs in the major offensive stats, with 41 goals, 26 assists and 67 points.
He then added five goals and eight points in six playoff games, as he established himself as an elite scorer in the NHL.
It wasn’t just the numbers he improved on either, his overall game took a big step forward too. He went from a -2 in 2021-22 to a +22 last season while posting much better two-way analytics.
In 2021-22, he was a streaky scorer who had a slight asterisk next to his 35 goals because of his high number of empty netters. But last season, he was a dominant scorer who could take over shifts and buried 38 non-empty net goals.
He’s a leader on this Kings team on and off the ice now and that comes with some hefty expectations.
Kempe’s 2023-24 Season:
Kempe’s a 40-goal scorer now and that’s the bar, right?
I wouldn’t go that far quite yet, it’s very difficult to score 40 goals in back-to-back seasons. In the last two years, just eight players have hit 40 in each of the last two seasons. And amongst that group is most of the league’s very best goal scorers.
Could Kempe do it? Absolutely, but it’s a bit unfair to put that expectation on him. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews and David Pastrnak make up that group of eight players and Kempe isn’t that level of player.
However, 30 goals is the minimum expectation for Kempe now. He’s the main goal scorer on the Kings and has to produce as such.
And 30 goals again shouldn’t be a problem for him. The environment around Kempe isn’t changing, he’ll be anchored onto Anze Kopitar’s line again and will likely have Quinton Byfield on his opposite wing to start the season.
Playing with Byfield and Kopitar facilitated Kempe’s goal-scoring explosion in the second half of last season and if we assume Byfield improves even more this summer, Kempe’s in a great spot.
If Byfield makes a big jump in his game, Kempe’s assist total could see a big jump too. Byfield was allergic to scoring last season, shooting at 4%, and finishing with just three goals. If Byfield finds even a slight scoring touch Kempe could reap the benefits.
The Kings’ power play will also be a major factor in his totals next season. He buried 11 goals on the man advantage last year and was a big part of the team’s massive improvement in that area. If they can run a successful power play again next season, that’s huge for Kempe.
If we’re projecting for Kempe’s minimum totals next season, 30 goals and 60 points would be the target.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish closer to 40 goals and 70 points, but it would be harsh to set that as an expectation.