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Flyers' Kempe Returns to Sweden; Eyes NHL

Thursday, 08.28.2008 / 2:03 PM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com
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Flyers\' Kempe Returns to Sweden; Eyes NHL

Mario Kempe established career-highs in goals (25), assists (24), points (49) and plus/minus rating (plus-6) in 48 games this past season.
Mario Kempe, the only Swedish-born player in the Philadelphia Flyers' system, says his adjustment to the North American game was a success.

In all honesty, however, Kempe might be short-changing himself. He was more like a smash hit who left a lasting impression.

In two seasons with the St. John's Fog Devils in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the 6-foot, 185-pound forward posted 48 goals and 91 points in 110 games. He established career-highs in goals (25), assists (24), points (49) and plus/minus rating (plus-6) in 48 games this past season after missing some time due to injury and while attending the World Junior Championships for silver-medalist Team Sweden. But he also excelled in the QMJHL playoffs in 2008, scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in six games during a first-round series loss to Acadie-Bathurst.

"Playing in the 'Q' helped me a lot," Kempe told NHL.com. "It's a different kind of hockey to what I'm used to and, obviously, playing in the NHL is my ultimate goal, so I knew I had to come over early, learn all the different rules and get adjusted to the smaller rinks. You certainly don't have as much time with the puck as you do in Europe, so I was thinking that coming over and learning would only benefit me."
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Kempe, born in Kramfors, Sweden, returned to his native land to play for Rogle BK of the Swedish Elite League in 2008-09. According to Kempe, the chance to play on an elite level was too good an opportunity to forego.

"I've been in the 'Q' for two seasons and wanted to get to that next level, so when the (Swedish team) called and wanted me, I really felt playing senior hockey on that level would only enhance my skills," Kempe said. "I signed for one year and, hopefully, when I come back to North America, I'll be ready to take that next step with the Flyers.

"When I return to Sweden, I'll continue to play the style of game that I learned in North America because that's why the Flyers drafted me and that's what the Flyers staff wants me to do. I'll continue to showcase my quickness and square me shoulder to the net when given the chance."

Chris Pryor, the Flyers' director of hockey operations, realizes Kempe is determined to improve his game by shifting overseas.

"(Going back to Sweden) doesn't mean that he'd be out of our plans, but simply that it might be a better fit for him right now," Pryor said. "He's at a point where we have to decide what is best for his development."

Kempe, Philadelphia's fifth-round selection (No. 122) in 2007, is a skilled playmaker who enjoys dazzling fans with his acceleration and craftiness. The 19-year-old center/wing, who took part in his second Flyers prospect camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., from July 20-26, has also developed a sound defensive game and even served as an assistant captain for St. John's in 2007-08.

"My coach at St. John's (Real Paiement) taught me how to play good defense and that's something I'll certainly take with me," Kempe said. "In Europe, I was more like a guy with great speed who would look to get those chance breakaways. But that strategy didn't work out so well in North America as it did in Europe, so I had to learn to play a little bit different and it was a great learning experience.

"Coach (Paiement) actually named me assistant captain in my first season and that was something I didn't expect at all. Especially since I was just coming over from Sweden and my English wasn't very good. But Coach told me that he wanted me to be an assistant because I showed good respect for the game and I always gave it 100 percent and those are the qualities I want to bring to the Flyers some day. In the locker room, I'm a little bit laid back and quiet and, really, having the 'A' on your jersey is much like an assistant coach. You just have to pick your spots and lead by example."

Despite his stature, Kempe doesn't hesitate in his relentless pursuit of the puck along the boards and is extremely aggressive around the goal cage.

"My goal is to play with the Flyers and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen," Kempe said. "The new rules (in the NHL) can only help me. I'm not very big, so if I continue to move my feet and make things happen, I'll be able to draw a lot of penalties for our team and then get some time on the power play and score some goals."

"My goal is to play with the Flyers and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen." - Mario Kempe
While Kempe admits to having his own style on the ice, he does take bits and pieces from many of the NHL's stars, past and present.

"I have my own style, but I'll try and watch how other great players do it, like Pavel Bure and Marion Gaborik (speed), Mario Lemieux (the shortest distance to the goal) and Mikael Renberg (grinder)," Kempe said. "I enjoy playing for the fans and try and watch players with a similar style to mine. It gives me more ideas and things to work on."

Paiement was certainly pleased with Kempe's ability and leadership.

"Mario is a very smart player," he said. "I don't think he tends to get the credit he deserves as a two-way player because he is often looked at as just an offensive player. But he played for us in all situations (in 2007-08), including the penalty kill. He's the type of player that I think will have a role as a situational player, even if he is not a big offensive player because he is very versatile."

Craig Berube, the Flyers' assistant coach, was impressed with Kempe's intelligence and swiftness during developmental camp.

"He definitely has very good skill, quick feet and goes to the net hard," Berube said. "He's very noticeable out there and I really feel he has a good future in front of him so long as he continued to work hard and improve."




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


C. Giroux 78 22 45 -8 67
W. Simmonds 81 32 28 -7 60
B. Schenn 80 26 33 3 59
J. Voracek 73 11 44 -5 55
S. Gostisbehere 64 17 29 8 46
S. Couturier 63 11 28 8 39
M. Raffl 82 13 18 9 31
M. Read 79 11 15 -5 26
M. Streit 62 6 17 -1 23
S. Laughton 71 7 14 -2 21
S. Mason 23 19 10 .918 2.51
M. Neuvirth 18 8 4 .924 2.27
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