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Adrian Kempe Takes on the 2018 IIHF World Championship

'It was a 'Yes' from me right away. I was very proud and glad that they wanted me to come over here and play for the team.'

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / LAKings.com

Representing Sweden is something that's far from new for Adrian Kempe.

This stage, however, is.

Kempe, who has played for his country at every conceivable phase of his career as a junior, has taken his game to a new level.

Literally.

"That's something you've dreamed about before," said Kempe, who is skating for the first time with Sweden at the men's level at the 2018 IIHF World Championship in Denmark.  

"First, it was to make the World Junior team and I did that. Now, it's been a pretty solid season for me. I get a chance to play here at the World Championship.

"It was a 'Yes' from me right away. I was very proud and glad that they wanted me to come over here and play for the team. I think we have a really good team. Hopefully we can keep this thing going."

Tweet from @adriankempe: ����������

Kempe, who pieced together a 16-goal, 37-point campaign with the LA Kings this year, has parlayed that second-season success into a strong showing on the international front.

In a variety of roles with an ever-evolving Swedish roster, the 21-year-old forward has four assists and five points in seven games through the tournament's preliminary round and helped push Sweden, who finished first in Group A, into a quarterfinal date with Latvia on Thursday.

"It's been great," said Kempe, who as a junior twice represented Sweden at the World Junior Championship, and at both the World Under-18 Championship and World Under-17 Challenge. 

"The entire group has been really good for me, too. It's my first time meeting a lot of players here. It's been really good. All the guys are great in the locker room. We've been doing a great job for each other. We're going to keep this going.

Kempe, playing down the middle, hasn't been a passenger in his first go-round.

He's been a driver.

"I think he's handled it really well," said assistant coach Johan Garpenlov, who is a three-time participant in the tournament himself, and a veteran of 609 NHL games between stints with the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers.

"He's a really good player, I think, on both sides of the puck. He's willing to learn every day. He's growing into our game in a good way. He has the offensive skills to do that too. He can handle the defensive side of the puck. That's what we saw in him.

"He's been playing over in LA for a few years now and he's been doing good, so I think he has most of the experience and he feels confortable to play on this level."

The coaching staff isn't the only one to take notice.

His teammates are, too.

And one, very familiar with Kempe's game, is pulling away impressed wih his Interstate 5 foe.

"We play them pretty often, so I kind of knew what kind of player he is and how good he is," Sweden teammate and Anaheim Ducks opponent Rickard Rakell said.

"He has tremendous speed and great awareness out on the ice. He's doing a great job with us. I think he's bringing something to our team every game. He can do it all out there. He plays solid defense and is a two-way center. He's dishing the puck and shooting the puck as well.

"He's playing really solid for us."

It's a performance that has benefitted Sweden, who has yet to lose in the tournament.

It'll benefit the Kings, too.

Soon.

"I think this year was a really good experience for me to get myself going into next year," Kempe said.

"I have a really important summer for me here. I'm just going to be very professional and take care of that and, hopefully, I come into next year as a better player and take one, maybe two steps more and be a more solid player all over the ice.

"I'm just going to try to get better and better."

At age 21, Kempe has that potential.

Just ask his teammates at the World Championship.  

"You're not even thinking that he's that young," Rakell said. "He has so much potential.

"With that said, I wish him all the best.

"Except for when he's plays us."

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