Drew Doughty is fast becoming a household name, in the Great White North and beyond.
Now, if you’re a big hockey fan, or a fan in Guelph, Ont., or Los Angeles you know all about the 20-year-old Kings defenseman. Doughty was a member of the Ontario League’s Guelph Storm for three seasons, amassing 39 goals and 157 points. Twice he was named to the OHL’s first all-star team and once to the Canadian Hockey League’s first team. He also won gold with Canada at the World Junior Championship.
But since being drafted No. 2 overall behind Steven Stamkos in 2008 and skating straight into the Los Angeles lineup, Doughty has fallen somewhat off the average fan’s radar. Such is life when you play on the left coast at 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. EST most nights, even after being named to the NHL’s all-rookie team and, in some people’s eyes, getting jobbed out of the Calder Trophy – without so much as being a finalist – last season.
But he’s back blip, blip, blipping around in every Canuck’s head after being named an Olympian.
Now, I have to admit, I’m a big Doughty fan. (Disclaimer: I drafted him in my keeper pool.) But I was surprised by his Team Canada inclusion. It’s not that I don’t think he deserves to be there; it was more about who isn’t there.
When I saw Canada’s roster I was shocked none of Calgary’s Big Three D-men were on the list while Doughty was. Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester were both 2006 Olympians and, despite a down year, Dion Phaneuf has proven himself a physical and offensive force.
Of course, listening to what’s been said about the young King since the announcement and taking a closer look at his numbers, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Doughty has starred for Team Canada at under-18 and under-20 events – and at last year’s World Championship – showing he could play a solid two-way game without sacrificing his offensive dynamism.
“We feel this guy can handle pressure situations,” said Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman of Doughty when announcing the roster.
Added Canadian associate director Kevin Lowe: “We had trouble moving the puck on the big ice (in Turin). Now we’ve come almost full-circle in terms of making an emphasis on guys who can move the puck, get it in the hands of the forwards.”
That’s Doughty to a tee.
He’s the second-highest scoring King behind only Anze Kopitar and, on average, plays 1:14 more than any other Los Angeles defender per game. Nineteen of his 32 points have come as the quarterback of a power play ranked ninth in the league as of Tuesday.
He’s also the third-highest scoring Canadian blueliner this season – behind only Mike Green and fellow Olympian Duncan Keith – with nine goals and 32 points and he’s averaged more than 24 minutes per game.
And I can’t believe Doughty is going to be the seventh blueliner in Vancouver, at least not for long. If that’s what Yzerman and his crew were thinking, why not select the more explosive Green, the more experienced and still-shifty Brian Campbell or the hit machine that is Stephane Robidas?
No, I see Doughty playing a big role. Bigger than Dan Boyle, maybe bigger, even, than the seemingly fast-aging Scott Niedermayer, whose game Doughty’s most resembles. The kid has shown maturity beyond his years and a still-evolving game that will only grow more with the cast of Canadian characters he’ll have around him in Vancouver.
Why add the youngster over those left off the roster? Because the kid can flat out play. And in a short tournament, Yzerman et al want the best available players for coach Mike Babcock and his staff. Seniority in the NHL or with Hockey Canada be damned.
Gold is all that matters and if a few feathers have to be ruffled to reach that goal – even if they’re captain Niedermayer’s – so be it.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.