L.A. is going green.
In the experience department, anyway.
Having jettisoned veteran d-man Tom Gilbert (traded to Washington) and forwards Teddy Purcell and Devin Setoguchi (waivers), the Kings have now recalled Adrian Kempe, their first-round pick from 2014.
Rookie defenseman Paul LaDue, who we wrote about extensively last week, is also back up with the club.
The big story here, though, is Kempe, the Swedish winger taken 29th overall in his draft year. He’s spent each of the last two seasons in AHL Ontario and while his numbers hardly jump off the page — just 11 goals and 19 points in 43 games this season — he’s only 20 years old, and caught the eye of head coach Darryl Sutter.
“With the hockey IQ he has and the speed that he has, the only adjustment is experience,” Sutter said earlier this season, per the L.A. Times. “He’s adjusted to the ice and you can see that. He’s a fun player to watch.”
The Kings are back in action Thursday, when they host Arizona. It’s possible Kempe could make his big league debut, something the 24-year-old LaDue did in a pre-bye week loss to Tampa Bay.
Kempe and LaDue aren’t the only youngsters working their way into the mix.
These changes are in lockstep with what Sutter alluded to upon signing an extension last summer. He said changes were inevitable, and that the organization had to work in a number of its farmhands.
“We have the good fortune now of the players playing in the American League playoffs that we’ve had up and down during the season,” Sutter explained. “They’re good players. That’s how you grow.
“You need those guys to make the same sort of impact that those boys [L.A.’s core players] made on our team. We need two or three of the next group to do it now. That is key for us.”