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Rising star Doughty has always been a Kings fan

Friday, 01.09.2009 / 1:30 PM / 2009 NHL All-Star Game

By Doug Ward - NHL.com Correspondent

Four months in Los Angeles and already Drew Doughty has juice.

Doughty and longtime friend Luke Schenn of the Maple Leafs were spotted at a Lakers game earlier this season, where they were seated in the lower bowl among stars like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and David Beckham.

Unlike the Hollywood glitterati, the two NHL rookie defensemen were not at Staples Center to see the Lakers, but rather to root for the Toronto Raptors. No surprise there. Doughty grew up in London, Ont., just 119 miles from the Raptors' Air Canada Centre home, which also happens to be home of the Leafs and, many contend, the heart of the hockey universe.

Doughty now lives in Los Angeles, which some consider to be the center of the basketball world. But Doughty insists he'll always remain true to the Raptors, the team he grew up following.

There's no need for Doughty to change his hockey allegiance, either. While the rest of Ontario and much of Canada was living and dying with the Leafs -- OK, mostly dying -- Doughty was always fixated on the Kings, the team that drafted him second overall in last summer's Entry Draft.

"When I was growing up," Doughty says, "I was a big Gretzky fan. That's how I got attracted to the Kings."

By the time Doughty, now 19, was born in December of 1989, Wayne Gretzky was in the middle of his second season as a Canadian expat, making his way in Los Angeles. Gretzky's years as a teenage phenom in Canada, as well as the four Stanley Cups he won in Edmonton, all happened before Doughty's time. Doughty's first and lasting impression of Gretzky is as a King.

Today, over two decades after Gretzky began his reign as the King of California, Doughty is following in his boyhood idol's footsteps, arriving in Los Angeles charged with the same task: to help the Kings come of age and win finally win a Stanley Cup.

Although Gretzky's late '80s revival of the organization was successful at the time, it didn't seem to have much of a carryover effect. When Doughty arrived the last fall, he joined a franchise that was in worse shape than the way Gretzky found it 21 years earlier. The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2002.

While Gretzky was anointed "The Great One" early in his career, Doughty was saddled with the less intimidating nickname of "Doughnut." The moniker was more a play on the spelling of his last name than a reflection on his eating habits, although his weight was once an issue. 

"As much as the nickname was kind of dumb, it wasn't so bad," the good-natured Doughty says.

The "dumb" nickname isn't the only thing Doughty, who now answers to "Dewey" in the Kings' dressing room, has shed lately. Before launching his NHL career, he went on a weight loss program that radically altered his profile.

"Yeah, big-time,” he says. "I lost about 35 pounds before the combine and now I weigh around 208. I think this is kind of the playing weight I like. I feel a lot faster. It's been good so far. Dropping the weight was easy once I got into a routine."

Doughty has been one of the Kings' best-conditioned players this season, logging 25 minutes-or-more of ice time on 13 occasions. His 23:53 minutes of ice time per game is tops among NHL rookies.

"I lost about 35 pounds before the combine and now I weigh around 208. I think this is kind of the playing weight I like. I feel a lot faster. It's been good so far. Dropping the weight was easy once I got into a routine."
-- Drew Doughty

"In Junior I was always playing up to 35 minutes a night," Doughty says.  "Here, I'm playing a little bit less, but it's at a much higher level so it's still about the same thing."
   
So Doughty is passing on the doughnuts, instead eating up ice time. And he's not just killing time. In becoming a Calder Trophy candidate, Doughty has shown poise beyond his years as a power play quarterback with a knack for clicking with teammates on precision passes. Doughty is also adept at the breakout pass.

"It's something I've spent a lot of time working on," Doughty says of his knack for moving the puck. "I think a lot of it is part of my original talent, I guess you could say. But, I've worked really hard at it and I take a lot of joy in my game. I've definitely been working hard for many years and, I guess so far it's paid off."

It appears the Kings' laborious rebuilding process is beginning to show signs of paying off, too.  After 39 games, they were 16-17-6 and with a young nucleus, they appear to be headed toward better days.
   
 
"The older guys on our team are sill younger guys in the league," Doughty says. "We've got some great guys in here and we're a great team off the ice. This year we're just about .500, but a lot of the games we lost were by one goal and they were in the last minutes. We just kind of fell apart, and I think that's because we are a young team and we don't have that experience in the NHL yet. Once we gain that, I think in the future we are going to be a very, very good team."

Doughty has made it clear he intends to be an integral part of that team. He has d 3 goals and 9 assists in 39 games, third among rookie defensemen.

"We have a lot of confidence in what he brings," Kings coach Terry Murray says. "He's a tremendous talent."

He's also a big-time fan who is living out his boyhood dream.

"When I was growing up," he says, "I had a Kings pillow case and a Kings phone in my room. It was kind of cool because I had all that stuff and now I'm here."

Already feeling at home among the stars.