Kemell got off to an unbelievable start to his season, tallying 18 points in his first 16 games, acting as JYP's top offensive weapon over that period. Very much a scorer, his shot was immediately troublesome for Liiga goaltenders, and he enjoyed plenty of opportunity to hunt that shot on the powerplay. At the midpoint of the season, Kemell seemed to have established himself as the top European prospect in the draft and a candidate to go as high as second overall. Complicating the situation somewhat is Kemell’s much slower pace over the second half of the season: since those first sixteen games, he has just a single point. A shoulder injury in November started the slide, as Kemell struggled in the handful of games he played upon his return, then he headed to Edmonton for the partial World Juniors tournament. Kemell seemed to pick up an injury of some kind in Edmonton, not returning to Liiga action until late January. Upon his return, two injuries and several months removed from his torrid start, he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic that he opened the season with.
It’s difficult to say just how much Kemell’s dip will impact his prospects at the draft. His Liiga body of work is still impressive on the whole– Brad Lambert’s season is a demonstration of how difficult it can be to produce against men– and any sniper with goal-scoring results in a professional circuit is sure to draw the keen eye of NHL clubs. He might not have second overall wrapped up, but I still expect Kemell to be drafted in the top five at this point in time. No other player offers the scoring prowess that he has, and “best scorer in the draft” might be the most valuable title to possess when it comes to draft stock.
|Date of Birth: 2004-04-27
|Position: RW, Shoots: R
|H/W: 5'11", 176lbs
|Stats to Date: (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS)
Kemell’s offensive toolkit does not centre around his skating, which is closer to average than many of his other skills. He chains together plenty of crossovers, a tactic that can make him a difficult player to wall off in transition but generates only moderate power and speed from those movements. The Finn is not much of a rush threat and rarely threatens to beat a defender wide. Instead, he often finds himself funneled down the offensive wall, where he can sometimes struggle to find an ensuing play in limited space. In contrast to the rest of his offensive toolkit, Kemell’s skating can appear somewhat detrimental to his offensive abilities– he’s able to use his hands and instincts to put himself in spots where it seems like he has a lane to the net, but ultimately just isn’t able to create the separation required to capitalize on that fleeting opportunity.
Kemell picks off a pass and finds himself with a pretty nice rush chance. Both defenders find themselves with a terrible gap and Kemell has a great chance to attack with speed and overwhelm a defender in a really tough situation. However, the Finn doesn’t have the burst to beat the defender outside and so he settles for an outside shot, a let-down considering the original prospects of the play.
On this play, Kemell deems his prospects of getting a shot off while presenting the puck to the defender to be better than his chances of driving around a flat-footed defender to get to the net. That demonstrates a lack of confidence in his skating ability– in this case, I think he does skate well enough to beat this defender, but he apparently doesn’t think so. That judgement comes from frequently struggling to beat defenders with speed, which Kemell does.
It is, however, important to ground our assessment and remember that forwards with less overall skill will rarely find themselves in these types of situations at all. Kemell’s skating can appear to hold him back in ways that we would never even notice out of a player with a lesser toolkit. Overall, he is fairly mobile– his top speed is proficient, and he changes direction well.
He just lacks the explosiveness to create separation in some situations, like those above.
With that in mind, I’d peg Kemell’s skating as projecting to be a tick above NHL average. He moves well laterally, which we won’t address quite yet but will see in later sections and should be able to add some explosiveness as he gets up to NHL weight.
Upon seeing Kemell’s shot, you may empathise a little more with his decisions to shoot rather than drive the net in the skating section (but my point stands). He can absolutely rip the puck. His scoring has slowed over the second half of the season, but his early season excellence demonstrated that he’s more than capable of beating Liiga goaltenders as a 17-year-old.
He’s powerful and accurate from the circles, both on wristers and one-timers.
Notably, his excellent hand-eye coordination allows him to consistently get full power behind his one-timers, as demonstrated by his ability to get good contact on a skipping saucer pass here.
Kemell also has a quick, deceptive release, which can come in handy when he gets in behind the defence for a breakaway (first clip) or slices off the wall into the slot (second clip).
16 goals in 39 Liiga games as a seventeen-year-old is no joke, especially considering that most of those occurred in the first half of the season. Kemell is a high-level scorer in the Liiga as a rookie and should eventually feature in the same role in the NHL.
Kemell is a very shifty forward, using good puck skills to effectively attack defenders and get to promising areas. This is a crucial part of his skillset, because his inexplosive skating doesn’t give him much leeway when it comes to operating in tight spaces– if he’s going to be a high-level offensive player, he needs to depend on his puck skills to get him to open ice in situations where his feet cannot.
For an introduction to Kemell’s hands, we’ll return to the most recent clip above.
That’s a terrific play for a 17-year-old to be making at that level. It’s also a good example of how Kemell’s hands can mitigate his skating: his prospects of beating that defender wide aren’t strong, so he cuts it towards the middle of the ice instead. From there, he displays impressive poise as he holds the puck all the way through the slot until finally picking his shot.
This next clip is another example of Kemell’s hands helping out his feet: he begins to stickhandle as the defender wishes to turn to begin to skate forwards, freezing the defender momentarily and allowing Kemell to gain a step wide.
He catches this defender flat footed, dragging the puck around him and slicing into the slot for a good chance.
Kemell is a very creative player, eager to try moves like this one from the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup when the opportunity presents itself, although he’s understandably shelved some of his more ambitious moves in Liiga play.
I had to find somewhere to work this awesome deflection in. Sweet hand-eye coordination.
Kemell has strong scoring instincts but isn’t a particularly intelligent passer and could stand to refine his decision-making in order to more effectively blend his offensive tools. We just looked at his puck skills and, in particular, how he uses his hands to create space in situations where his skating cannot. In order to more effectively capitalize on the space that he creates, Kemell could do a better job making a subsequent play after his stickhandling. Often, in a bid to keep the puck moving, he’ll make a low-percentage pass to a teammate that will frequently kill the offensive.
Case in point: Kemell employs the hands very nicely to exit the zone but tries a fancy backhand pass into pressure when the entire middle of the ice is open!
He can also have a tendency to get himself into some turnover trouble trying to attack defenders with his puck skills. This one's a classic overhandling mistake: being so focused on beating the first guy that your move takes you right into the second. Cutting back towards the middle of the ice would have taken Kemell to more space.
Kemell isn’t much of a playmaker. He has eight assists on the season, half his goal total, with most being pretty basic plays on the powerplay: feeding point shots, generating some rebounds and tips with his shot, and secondary assists simply from moving the puck around. I wouldn’t expect him to create a whole lot as a passer. But that won’t particularly matter: if Kemell keeps scoring, he’ll be valuable. I do find his instincts and ability to work himself into situations where he can use his best weapon to be quite impressive.
This is a really fascinating example of Kemell’s understanding of passing lanes– no doubt refined from many years of hunting the cross-ice pass on the powerplay. You’ll usually see the weak-side winger sneak down the wing as the puck carrier on the opposite side moves down the wall. Typically, both players will remain level with each other. You can see how the netfront defender expects this; when the puck carrier enters a passing stance, the defender shifts his stick to cover that cross-ice pass. Kemell, however, isn’t anywhere near there. He’s hanging up beyond the top of the circle, and you see how the lane eventually materializes perfectly to where he’s been standing for the duration of the play.
Kemell isn’t a big guy, but he definitely likes to throw the weight he does have around. His eagerness to engage physically is a fun little feature to his game– he likes to hit and he’s considerably more effective than I expected when he does. He punches above his weight class. You’ll see him lock his eyes on a player, determined to lay a good check, in a way that usually has you a little worried that he’s about to take a charging penalty, but he stops his feet in time to keep things legal.
He gets back on the backcheck, adjusts his route, and then lays a thunderous hit on the former puck carrier. The video isn’t quite clear enough to say but it does look like he gets a piece of his victim’s head on this check. Regardless, it demonstrates his eagerness to get involved physically and how he fixates on his target.
Even when he doesn’t get a full piece of the player he wants to hit, Kemell demonstrates the right attitude on the defensive side of the puck. He takes the body, not the puck, disallowing his opponent from sliding the puck past him and collecting it on the other side here.
Here’s an impressive reverse-hit: Kemell braces on the boards and puts the would-be checker on his back.
It’s rather impressive for a 176-pound, 17-year-old rookie who plays in a skill role to be this involved physically in a senior league. For a 215 pound fourth-liner with little other purpose than to hit, this type of attention to physicality would be solid. I’m unsure exactly how much will carry to higher levels, considering Kemell’s size and likely skill role, but it’s promising to see him this engaged.
Skating 55; Shot 60; Skills 55; Smarts 55; Compete/Physicality 55
A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.