If there is one thing I can compliment the Oilers on in the last five years it would be their ability to draft defencemen well into the later rounds of the entry draft. Of course, much of that good work was undone this summer by Ken Holland, who traded away Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones, but they still have guys like Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, and Dmitri Samorukov for their efforts.
Another name that could be added to that list is Philip Kemp. The American rearguard has had quite an illustrious junior career to date. He cut his teeth with the USNTDP Juniors of the USHL before making the jump to the NCAA to play for Yale University, where he eventually took over the captaincy.
On top of that, he has a hefty list of international experiences. Kemp was an assistant captain for Team USA at the U18 championships in 2018, where he captured silver, and then played with the U20 team at the 2020 World Junior Championships.
Heading into the 2020/21 season the expectation was that he would return to Yale to play in his fourth season with the club but after COVID made that impossible the Oilers loaned him to Väsby IK of the HockeyAllsvenskan league over in Sweden. Kemp would appear in 37 games with Väsby IK and would put up 10 points during that span.
After that stint was over, he joined the Bakersfield Condors where he notched just two points in his first 12 professional games.
Those low point totals shouldn’t concern anybody. Unlike many of his defensive counterparts in the Oilers pipeline, Kemp isn’t known to be an offensive threat. Instead, he plays a very sound defensive game that focuses on shutting down offensive threats rather than creating threats of his own.
Kemp possesses the frame of a physical defender, standing 6’3” and 203lbs, but he doesn’t often impose his will on attacking forwards. His game focuses on disruption, whether it’s blocking shots or getting his stick into passing lanes to throw off opponents. Skating is a concern as he doesn’t have the greatest mobility on the ice but he tries to make up for that with sound positioning.
There are then, of course, the ever-important intangibles that Kemp brings. He has been touted as a natural-born leader ever since he was drafted by the Oilers. He has captained multiple teams over his junior career and was a part of the leadership group that captured a silver medal at the 2018 U18 championships.
While I don’t tend to lean too heavily into intangibles, I find making decisions based on those alone can lead to some rather silly mistakes (see: Duncan Keith), this is an instance where it can’t do much harm.
Kemp signed his entry-level contract with the Oilers in the summer of 2020 and the expectation is that he’ll get his first full season with the Condors this coming season. Jay Woodcroft will oversee his development and hopefully, we can see some meaningful progress in the skating and physicality department of his game.
There is some work to be had if Kemp wants to crack an NHL roster but the tools are there for a serviceable bottom-pairing guy to emerge in the next few years.