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The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Phil Kemp’s 2022-23 Season Review

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Photo credit:Bakersfield Condors
Bruce Curlock
8 months ago
In another life, I wrote an article about the three amigos of the right defence in Bakersfield: Vinny Desharnais, Michael Kesselring and Phil Kemp.
In the article, I asked two questions about the trio. First, would any of the three make the NHL? Secondly, if any did make the NHL, who would be first?
The question I never asked was how many would make the NHL? Vinny Desharnais was the first to make the NHL of the three playing 36 games in the regular season along with 12 more in the post-season. Michael Kesselring was the second to make the NHL with a nine-game stint at the end of the regular season following his trade to the Arizona Coyotes.
Both Desharnais and Kesselring acquitted themselves well as rookies in the toughest league in the world. The last of the three, Phil Kemp, finished the year with the Bakersfield Condors. He did skate with the “black aces” for the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs and recently signed a new two-year, two-way deal with the Oilers. He will absolutely be relied upon to be the anchor for the Bakersfield Condors defensive group.
The bigger question is whether Phil Kemp can make it a hat trick of NHL players from the big three that started the season together in 2022-23.

What Did I See This Year?

Kemp’s year was a bit of a smorgasbord of events. He played everything from top pairing to third pairing at evens. Desharnais held most of the first pairing minutes until his recall and Kesselring held down that role until his trade. Kemp stepped in with about twenty games remaining in the season on the top pairing.
His results were steady and commendable given he was leading a defensive group that had lost its top two defencemen in the second half of the season. He finished the season with 6-15-21 in 71 games which was good for third on the team excluding Cam Dineen who arrived in the Michael Kesselring trade. Kemp was a mainstay on the Condors PK usually in a first pairing role. He was also asked to play high-leverage minutes defending leads and to shut down the other teams’ top forward groups.
For a 7th-round pick, Phil Kemp had an admirable year. The question now will be given that he’s at the top of the food chain in Bakersfield for the 2023-24 season, will he be able the make the same leap as his former teammates and play NHL minutes.

The Defence Never Rests

Let’s be crystal clear: Phil Kemp is a “defence first” defenceman. He’s not going to bring a load of offense and when he’s effective on the ice, you will hardly notice him. He’s a very smart defender who uses his size and stick to disrupt attacking players both in the zone and on the rush. He’s an excellent cycle breaker who can leave a physical imprint on opposition players. These are the types of plays that you can expect when Kemp is playing well.

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What About The Offense?

As those who follow me know, I am big believer that an AHL player needs to bring some offence in order to make it, and more importantly, stick in the NHL. No question that Phil Kemp is shy on the offence. However, his former teammate, Vinny Desharnais also didn’t score in bunches either.
Desharnais in his best year had 27 points in 66 games which was his 26-year-old season. In addition, although Kemp’s age makes it less likely there will be a significant improvement, he still is a full two years behind Desharnais. More importantly, Kemp has some offensive skills that I believe can help him score more.

The Bomb

The first skill that is quite noticeable is the shot. Phil Kemp can blister the pill. He has an absolute cannot of a shot from the point. He also shows a strong, accurate wrist shot as well.

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If there was one area where I think Kemp could really improve his offensive numbers it is by using his shot more. He had 51 shots in 71 games this year, which is not nearly enough. In comparison, last year, Vinny Desharnais had 100 shots in 66 games. Kemp’s shot is certainly better and using it more will likely lead to more offensive success.

Can He Move The Puck?

Phil Kemp is a really good passer of the puck. He makes quick decisions and the passes are accurate and gets to his target in a hurry.

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Kemp actually uses his passing ability to create transition opportunities for his team both in the defensive and neutral zones.

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More ice time this year with more skill players may lead to additional point totals because Phil Kemp can pass the puck.

Offensive Instincts

Kemp is also not shy about stepping into plays to help create offence. Again, he’s a very heady player and he definitely understands to where he can help create opportunities.

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Skating Is The Challenge

This is it. Right here. Phil Kemp isn’t a 7th-round draft pick for no reason. The reason is skating. Now to be clear, I think he skates fine when he gets up to speed. However, his first couple of steps are clunky and his lateral mobility needs work.

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For Kemp this needs to be the focus. He has a lot of tools that could allow him to play third-pairing minutes in the NHL. However, his skating is the part that needs to improve. It should be his sole focus this summer in preparation for the coming season.

What’s The Verdict?

I think Phil Kemp can play. If you asked me before last season whether I thought Kemp or Desharnais would make the NHL, I would have leaned to Kemp. I think he has more skills that are translatable to the NHL.
Now this is for a limited minutes third pairing or 7th defenceman-type role, but the skills are there. Phil Kemp has a massive opportunity this year. He’s going to play top-pairing minutes and likely will play a lot with skilled players. This is a season where he could create an NHL opportunity.
If he needs any further belief or inspiration, he only needs to call big #73. Maybe this year all three of the big righty triumvirate can have NHL success at the same time.
That’s it for this week folks. As always, feedback can be posted right here or to @bcurlock on Twitter.

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