Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Future Friday: Michal Kempny

By Mario Tirabassi
Apr 25, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville speaks with the media after the St. Louis Blues defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in game seven of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 25, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville speaks with the media after the St. Louis Blues defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in game seven of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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KHLer Michal Kempny will join the Chicago Blackhawks’ struggling blue line

In late May, the Chicago Blackhawks made a few cheap investments into their lineup with three European players, most notably Michal Kempny of the Czech Republic.

The Blackhawks last season had their share of issues defensively, having to rely heavily on the play of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook. Few teams can sustain the success the Blackhawks strive for while playing with three reliable defensemen. Two and a half really, since Seabrook had one of his worst seasons from a possession standpoint in recent years.

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Prior to adding Brian Campbell in free agency to legitimize the top-four defensive pairings for Chicago, the Blackhawks brought in Kempny from the KHL’s Avangard Omsk.

While at the World Championships in Russia this spring, Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman got a chance to watch Kempny up close with the Czech team, stating, “He’s a mobile defenseman. He’s got that mixture of offense and defense. I would call him a really well-rounded guy. He can defend well in his own end. Mobility, he’s a good skater. He can transition the puck. He can sort of play a well-rounded game, which I think as a defenseman, you’ve seen our team play a lot, you have to be able to defend for our coaches to be able to rely on you. He’s got that ability to sort of play both ways.”

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Mobility, good skills with the puck, ability to play both ways. That is the way the Blackhawks are trending when it comes to the defensive position, and Kempny fits right into that mold.

Transitioning To The NHL

While it won’t be known until he hits the ice with the Blackhawks, Kempny may take some time to transition to the North American style of play. Smaller ice, more physicality and more-skilled players usually give European transfers some difficulties right out of the gate.

Kempny made his professional debut with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech league in the 2009-10 season, and has skated in 272 professional games with 81 points playing for HC Kometa Brno, HC Slavia Praha (Czech) and Avangard Omsk (KHL).

Since making his international debut in Europe, Kempny has played in 62 games for the Czech Republic’s national team, scoring 20 points and playing in a leadership role wearing an “A’ for his country.

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The Blackhawks are hoping Kempny can make an impact right away, though, much like Artemi Panarin did last season. But it could take some time for Kempny to get fully accustomed, and he could spend some time with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL to get up to the level of play the Blackhawks expect for him.

Or maybe it will only take a training camp and prospect camp to get up to speed for Kempny.

After the Blackhawks Prospect Camp roster was announced yesterday, Kempny was listed as a “Team C” prospect, basically meaning that he will be playing with the group that will largely have the best chance of cracking the NHL roster for the Blackhawks in the fall. At 25 years old, Kempny will be the oldest player at prospect camp, and he will turn 26 by the time the season begins in October.

Future Projection

Kempny, by all accounts, could challenge the Blackhawks defensive core for a spot in the top six right away. At 6 feet and nearly 190 pounds, Kempny is physically ready to handle the NHL game, while not playing an overly physical style.

With players like Viktor Svedberg, Erik Gustafsson, Ville Pokka and fellow countryman Michal Rozsival in the mix for the sixth and seventh spots in the defensive group for the Blackhawks, Kempny has his work cut out for him early to make that Panarin-level impact for Chicago.

Next: Blackhawks' Way-Too-Early Line Projections

Kempny comes into summer training camps with a leg up on his teammates as the organization wants to fast-track him to the NHL. If he impresses the coaching staff out of camp enough, he will be in the lineup on opening night.

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