After missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, the Nashville Predators are eagerly waiting for the 2023 Training Camp to get started and evaluate their new talent on the ice.
One of those players that the coaching staff, led by Andrew Brunette, and front office led by Barry Trotz, will be looking at closely is Joakim Kemell.
At only 19-years-old, Kemell has an “elite level” of play according to the Predators AHL affiliate Head Coach Karl Taylor.
“We have to take a deep breath and understand that he is only 19, but his compete and his energy and his willingness to stare people in the eye and play the right way is at an elite level. And there’s lots of good qualities outside of his stats and his offensive abilities that tell me he’s going to have a good future.”
Head Coach Karl Taylor on Joakim Kemell
The Nashville Predators lacked in goal scoring in the 2022-23 campaign, ranking 27th in the league with only 229 goals scored in 82 games. They will be looking to add scoring ability to the lineup this season and be back in contention for the Stanley Cup at seasons end.
2022-23 Season Review for Kemell
The 2022-23 season for Kemell was one that saw him play for three different teams and he managed to fit in seamlessly no matter what sweater he put on.
Kemell played for JYP in Finland, the Finland U20 World Juniors Team, and the Milwaukee Admirals. Playing in a total of 86 games with those three organizations combined, including 14 games with the Admirals in the post season.
This young Finnish talent ended the season with totals of 31 goals, 19 assists, and 50 points. Having 14 goals and 9 assists in just 28 games played at the AHL level is highly impressive of this 19-year-old and shows that he has what it takes to play at the professional level.
The Calder Cup Playoffs for Milwaukee is really where Kemell found his place, got more comfortable on the ice, and played to his potential. In 14 playoff games Kemell had eight goals and two assists, all while only committing one minor penalty.
Playing for multiple teams over the course of one season can be straining on a player, especially when those teams are roughly 4,300 miles apart. Kemell overcame that hurdle and highly impressed those in the Admirals and Predators organizations.
Season Outlook for 2023-24
With the departure of Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen from the Nashville Predators during the offseason, there are some holes to fill in the forward lines. Kemell has what it takes to be an offensive producer for the Predators in the not-so-distant future after more development with the Milwaukee Admirals.
While I do not see Kemell making the opening night roster, mainly in part due to his lack of experience at the professional level, I do see him dressing in a Predators sweater before the season ends.
In order for Kemell to have a spot on this roster, he will have to beat out players such as Philip Tomasino, Juuso Parssinen, Luke Evangalista, and Thomas Novak. While it is not impossible, that is a pretty big undertaking due to the experience those four players have at the NHL level already.
Kemell is highly like going to start his season in Milwaukee, gaining more professional experience, and when one of the previously mentioned players faulter or someone gets hurt, the door will be opened for Kemell to maybe make his NHL debut in 2023-24.
Kemell is still very young but if he can impress the coaching staff during training camp, the possibilities are endless for him. As far as being a mainstay in the Predators lineup, he has a little ways to go.
Biggest Strength and Weakness for Kemell
There is no doubt that the biggest strength that Kemell can bring to this Predators team is his ability to make plays. His 14 goals in 28 games for Milwaukee can attest to that.
When he sets up in the offensive zone around the faceoff circle, his slap shot reminds me a lot of that of Alexander Ovechkin. Now granted, those are some huge skates to fill being put in the same books as “The Great 8” but I see a lot of similarities in their styles of play.
Anytime he is on the ice, Kemell is looking ahead to the next play. He is unselfish with the puck and is an incredible asset to his team with his hockey IQ and play making ability.
For his weakness, I would have to say that it is his defensive play and his discipline when it comes to penalties.
In his first 14 games with the Admirals, Kemell had a total of 21 penalty minutes. One could argue however that this is in part due to making the move from the larger European ice surface to the smaller North American ice. Making that transition and the play being much tighter, is a hard adjustment to make.
It does seem like Kemell figured it out after some experience, in his 14 playoff games with Milwaukee, he only had one minor penalty.
When it comes to his defensive play, as an offensive firepower, he needs to improve to be a more well-rounded player on the ice. During the 2022-23 season, Kemell was a -19 in the +/- column.
While the +/- column is not a direct reflection of one player’s ability, it does speak volumes that even with all the goals and assists Kemell had, he still found himself with such a low statistic in this area.
Overall, Kemell has what it takes to perform a very high level in the NHL eventually, and I could see him making his NHL debut before Christmas and eventually having a top-6 role on this Nashville Predators team a few years down the road.