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Canada's Doughty more than earned his spot

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty, the 20-year-old star defenseman for the Los Angeles Kings, raised a few eyebrows with his inclusion on Canada's Olympic roster. His appearance makes him the youngest Canadian to play in an elite international tournament since an 18-year-old Eric Lindros played alongside the game's greats at the 1991 Canada Cup. 

An illustration of just how young Doughty is can be found amidst his favorite Olympic memories. While Canada's 2002 gold medal may seem like recent history for most adults, Doughty was just 12 at the time.
"I remember when I was younger, in '02 when Team Canada won in Salt Lake City," Doughty said. "We'd get out of class and watch the games in the afternoon. It was pretty cool doing that. In Canada, hockey is like a religion. I remember them winning that gold and the whole country was watching them."
Still too young to drink legally in the United States, Doughty is more than old enough to win medals in international competition, and Canada is poised to make a run at precious metal in Vancouver.
"It's hard to believe that I've made a team that I've dreamt of making my whole life and being in the room with those guys," Doughty said. "Obviously, being that young and making the team is a confidence booster."
Nervous? No. In awe? Maybe.
"Being the young guy, going into that room for the first time with some of those players, guys like (Scott) Niedermayer, and (Chris) Pronger, may be a little bit nerve-wracking," he said. "(I'm) kind of in awe, I guess."
Doughty edged notable defensemen Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester of the Flames, and Dion Phaneuf of the Maple Leafs for the final spot.
"Obviously I didn't expect to make the team, but to know that I could make Team Canada over some of the defensemen that are in this League is a pretty unbelievable feeling," Doughty said.

He certainly earned his spot. He ranks in the top five among NHL defensemen with 11 goals and 44 points, and his plus-17 is a mirror image of his minus-17 last season as a rookie. He's also tops among all Kings defensemen with an average of 24:49 of ice time per game.
He said in Vancouver it will be important for him to do what earned him his selection in the first place.
"I'm going in there (to) play the same way I do here, I'm not going to try to change anything, try to do more or try to do less, or make any adjustments in my game."
As for defense partners, Doughty is ready for whatever his country asks. One big guy, however, could offer a good potential partnership and learning experience.
"I wouldn't mind playing with Pronger," Doughty said. "He's been one of the best defensemen in the League for years now and I think if I played with him I'd learn a lot at the same time. He does (so many) things so easily and has done them for years and years.  He'd make my game a lot easier. I could give him the puck and let him do the work."
Coach Mike Babcock commands respect and Doughty appreciates the fact that success follows his Olympic coach. Babcock has led the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008, and Western Conference titles with the Wings in 2009 and Anaheim in 2003. 
"He's a great coach," Doughty said. "You know he's going to be demanding that we stick to the system, and that's going to be the key to winning. If we all buy into the system and stick to the basics, that's going to make us a winning team."
High expectations always follow Team Canada, especially this year, with the Olympics on home ice. Doughty welcomes the high standard for excellence his countrymen demand.
"Canada as a nation is going to be pretty disappointed if we don't win gold there, but I think all of us will thrive under that pressure," Doughty said. "We all believe, in the room, I'm sure, that we're the best team there and that we have every chance to win that gold medal. We have a great team. We're going to be really confident going in and it's going to be awesome to play in front of our home crowd. It's going to be cool."
For Doughty, representing his country is nothing new. He won gold at the 2008 World Junior Championship, and last spring played in the World Championships.

"It's going to help me a bit," Doughty said of his international experience. "Playing for your country is always a huge honor and you take a lot of pride in it. (It's) a tough thing to do, and when you do get that opportunity you take every advantage of it. I'm pumped to play and it's going to be a lot of fun."
While he has worn the Canada sweater on numerous occasions, Doughty said it will be a big moment when he dons his Olympic jersey.
"The first time that I do get to throw it on, it's going to be a pretty special moment," said Doughty. "It looks pretty cool."

Author: Josh Brewster | Correspondent

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