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Drew Doughty Continues to Elevate His Game as LA Kings Push for Playoffs

All-Star defenseman has put together another Norris-caliber season

by Josh Cooper @JoshuaCooper /

When asked about Drew Doughty's attributes as a hockey player, LA Kings captain Anze Kopitar ticked down a long list of what makes the blueliner stand out.

"His skating ability is probably close to the top, if not the very top … His agility is outstanding. His play with the puck and his ability to shut down pretty much everybody that he gets matched up on. He can do it all and that's why he should win the Norris (Trophy)," Kopitar said.

Doughty's regular season has been arguably the best of his career - even better than 2015-16 when he took home his first Norris Trophy, given to the defenseman in the NHL that displays the top all-around ability at the position.

He seems to have elevated his game further, a remarkable feat for a player already considered one of the best defensemen of his era.

"In my mind, he's probably the best defenseman in the league," Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said after playing the Kings last Saturday.

Video: Drew Doughty's had a Norris Trophy caliber season

Two-Way Hockey

Doughty has been able to put up points despite often playing against opponents' top lines. And after putting in effort on the defensive side of the game, it's often not easy to shift up to offense, but he's seamlessly able to do it.

"I love the defensive part of the game. When I'm going up against a team that has a few star players and I know I have that match up like I always do, I'm excited for it," Doughty said. "A lot of times I play my best games in those and maybe I don't come away with any points or anything like that but, in my mind, those are some of my best games."

With Doughty on the ice, the Kings possess the puck more 5-on-5 (52.43 SAT percentage) than their opponents. Los Angeles also has the puck more 5-on-5 when Doughty is on the ice versus when he's not on the ice (plus-4.32 SAT percentage relative).

"His impact on the outcome of hockey games, I don't know if there's a defenseman in the league that impacts it on both sides of the puck as he does," Head Coach John Stevens said.

He's played more minutes shorthanded (216:45) than any other player on the Kings, the top penalty kill unit in the NHL.

"I have no doubt in my mind that he can shut everybody down and still produce offensively the same," Kopitar said.

Offensive Boost

Doughty is currently on pace for one of his most productive scoring seasons in the NHL. He has reached a career-high with 46 assists and his 0.71 points per-game almost match the level he hit in 2009-10, when he had 59 points - the most he has picked up in the league to date.

Furthermore, his scoring seems to have gone up a notch as the Kings' games have gotten more important. He has 12 points in his last 13 games and his 55 points total are tied for seventh in the league among all defensemen.

"He's a hell of a player," Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock said earlier this season to the National Post. "Can stickhandle in a phone booth. Great offensive instincts. He is as loose as they come when it comes to the game. It's competitive and he wants to win. Makes the big plays at the right moment."

Video: OTT@LAK: Doughty fires OT winner past Condon

Last offseason, the Kings decided to push for more offense which has enabled Doughty to show off his talent on that side of the puck.

"The assists are coming and that's a huge part to just all the other guys having a lot more points, and our power play is clicking a little bit," Doughty said. "I'm trying to get points, but I'm just trying to get wins. We need to go into the playoffs right now so that's all that's on my mind."

Minute Cruncher

Part of the reason Doughty can impact the game at such a high level is because he is on the ice a lot.


This season, he ranks second the NHL in average ice-time per-game at 26:43. Since the 2014-15 season, Doughty has ranked second in average ice-time per-game at 27:44, first in shifts per-game with 32.3 and tops in total ice-time with 8,959:11.

"I'm not trying to conserve anything," he said. "I'm just trying to go out there and play my best and be the best defenseman on the ice every single night. I want to win us hockey games."

Character and Competitiveness

If Doughty is scored on in practice or in a game, there's generally visible anger from him, which drives him to ensure he doesn't get beat twice.

"Two-on-one, even in a game-day practice, he tries as hard as he can not to allow a scoring chance to happen," Stevens said. "That's an attribute for him that he's always had. He's one of the most competitive guys we've ever had, but he applies it to both sides of the puck."

Part of this is a desire to win and, overall, this mindset has been a major part of team culture since he arrived in Los Angeles.

Though Doughty is intense, there's a certain levity to him, which brings up the rest of the room.

"I don't think there's very many days when Drew is in a bad mood," Kopitar said. "He comes in with a smile on his face most times. Sometimes he's got down days, but he snaps out of it pretty quick so that's good."

Hockey Smarts

"His hockey IQ is through the roof," Kopitar said.

Doughty always seems to be one step ahead. Whether he's on the attack or trying to prevent a goal, he can anticipate all different scenarios.

Video: LAK@CBJ: Doughty scores goal on nifty deflection

"Seventy-five percent of Drew's game is hockey IQ," Kings broadcast analyst Jim Fox said. "His skating ability allows him to execute but it is his ability to read and react quickly to any given situation, gives him an advantage over most everyone else. Whether it is anticipating where an attack is headed or attacking the opposition when they are in a line chance, Drew recognizes these situations and reacts quickly and decisively."

Sometimes Doughty's ability to sense an upcoming situation ends up in the scoresheet. Sometimes it doesn't. But the fact that he's able to do so helps limit mistakes and makes him even more effective.

And what Doughty brings to the Kings, both measurable and immeasurable, is what makes him stand out as the top defenseman in the NHL.

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