Adrian Kempe ended up playing some of the best hockey of his young career in the spring. It just wasn’t with the Kings.
Kempe was part of Sweden’s run to the World Championship gold medal in May. He contributed two goals and six assists in 10 games and teamed with countrymen Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell of the Ducks after all were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The celebration in Sweden was akin to a Stanley Cup parade.
“I think it was a good thing,” Kempe said. “Before summer started, I got some confidence in the tournament and it’s a good thing going into the offseason and a new season coming ahead.”
The Kings seek more good things from Kempe as he will likely start out next to Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Carter on the second line, as Michael Amadio’s emergence as the third-line center, between Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, was all but solidified when the Kings and Ducks concluded the preseason Saturday at Staples Center.
It moves Kempe to the wing from the No.2 center role he assumed when Carter missed 55 games last season. Statistically, Kempe’s first full NHL season was a success with 16 goals and 37 points in 81 games. But Kempe did not score in his final 33 games, including the playoffs.
“In talking to him through that stretch, especially at the end of the year, it really, really bothered him,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “He really wanted to help the team. In Adrian’s game, maybe he tried a little bit too much off the rush.”
Kempe points out that he still had more assists (12) in the second half of the season than the first half (nine). It was a new experience, stamina-wise, too, given that Kempe had not played more than 55 games in a season.
“Everyone gets tired over a year, but that’s where you’ve got to be mentally strong and prepare for what happens,” Kempe said. “It was a good year for me and a good experience.”
Stevens is quick to note that he still liked Kempe’s attack. He’d like to see Kempe shoot more as the 22-year-old grows into an everyday NHL forward, and potentially with new linemates to start.
“We do like the look of that line with speed in the middle and speed down the wing,” Stevens said. “[Kovalchuk] just reads the vacant ice so well that he always ends up on the right spot … we just think it gives us a little more balance, whether it stays that way or not, I’m not sure. But we’ve like the look of it through the little bit of time.”
Austin Wagner and Jaret Anderson-Dolan filled out the fourth line, with Trevor Lewis, in Saturday’s regular season tune-up. Anderson-Dolan is trying to make the team at 19 or return to his junior team.
The deadline for teams to get to 23-man rosters is Tuesday.
As a kid growing up in Ohio, Kiefer Sherwood watched the Columbus Blue Jackets. But the player he followed and identified with was former Ducks star Paul Kariya. Both are 5-foot-11, 180 pounds.
“I was a late developer, so I was pretty small when I was younger,” Sherwood said. “He was a guy who really excelled in his skating and his vision, so I [emulated him], and we’re both half-Japanese.”
Sherwood could soon make his NHL debut in a Ducks jersey. The free agent signee is the surprise of training camp and has a shot at the opening-night roster in the wake of several injuries.
“He’s a young guy who’s shown his skating and his hockey sense has given him an opportunity for a longer look,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
Carlyle also used Saturday as a dress rehearsal and, if it holds, he would have rookies on all four lines with Troy Terry, Max Comtois, Sam Steel and Sherwood, who was on the fourth line with Carter Rowney and Ben Street.
It’s not the planned scenario but Carlyle said all his young players have earned the chance. Sherwood, 23, signed a two-year contract out of Miami of Ohio in March in a move that didn’t register high at the time.
Sherwood said making the NHL has been “a goal that I’ve thought about every day since I was six.” If he sticks around, he could be with the Ducks when they retire Kariya’s jersey on Oct.21.
“That’d be really cool,” Sherwood said. “[But] take it day by day.”
Street, Steel and Terry scored and John Gibson made 32 saves for the Ducks in Saturday’s 3-0 win. Dustin Brown suffered an upper-body injury and did not return for the third period for the Kings.... Kings defenseman Derek Forbort (back) made his preseason debut … Ducks forward Brian Gibbons (hand) will be evaluated on Tuesday, Carlyle said. Ducks forward Anton Rodin was placed on unconditional waivers.