There is always something to be happy about, even when a team is slumping.
The Kings have hit the skids of late, having lost five consecutive games to drop into a tie for eighth in the Western Conference standings going into Friday’s game after having been in first in December. But forward Adrian Kempe, a 21-year-old speed merchant, is a player who is still putting a smile on the face of Coach John Stevens.
Kempe played in 25 games a season ago as a rookie, scoring two goals and doling out four assists with a time-on-ice average of 12:14. Kempe this season has 14 goals and nine assists and his TOI is up to 13:19 while playing in 44 of the team’s 45 games.
“We’ve been excited about what he’s been able to do,” Stevens said Friday at the morning skate ahead of his team’s game at Anaheim. “When Jeff (Carter) went out it really put him in a situation where it kind of accelerated his responsibility.
“It’s a lot of responsibility just being in the middle of the ice against top players and for the most part, he’s done a really good job.”
Stevens detailed all that he likes about Kempe.
“He’s been responsible without the puck, he plays the game the right way, he creates with his speed, he’s a competitive guy, he’s been good on the forecheck,” Stevens said. “So there are a lot of parts of his game that we get excited about.”
Stevens also has liked the playmaking ability of Kempe, something Stevens said Kempe didn’t show a lot of during his time in the minor leagues.
“And we’ve really been impressed with that,” Stevens said.
Kempe, out of Sweden, had aspirations at the beginning of the season.
“Coming into this year, I think crack the roster and stay up all year was my first goal,” said the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder. “And after that, when I got a spot on the team I tried to get my minutes up and play as much as I could and bring my speed and everything to the team so I could produce offensively and be a good player in all…