With Brian Campbell
, Mark Streit
and Wade Redden
among the most coveted free agents this summer, offensive defensemen are a valuable commodity in today's NHL, which bodes well for Drew Doughty
Doughty, selected No. 2 by the Los Angeles Kings
in the 2008 Entry Draft, is the prototypical offensive defensemen. But like most young players, he could use some help defensively. Doughty has concentrated on improving his defensive-zone play with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, but has maintained his offensive flair. While defense can be taught, it is much more difficult to teach offensive creativity and skill.
"I think my style of play is more just of an offensive defenseman," Doughty said. "I know that in my first two years with the Guelph Storm I was pretty much a solid offensive defensemen and wasn't very good in my own zone. I know that this year playing the Super Series and World Juniors, I really, really worked on my defensive game. Now I hope people not only see me as an offensive defensemen but as a two-way player. I think my style is, as I said, offensive, but I work really hard and I'm very determined to win."
Doughty sacrificed offensive opportunities last season to adjust to a more defensive game. His point total dropped from 74 in 67 games in 2006-07 to 50 points in 58 games last season. While he finished with a minus-1 rating, most scouts would agree he is an improved player.
It is no wonder Doughty still needs work on his defensive game -- he has been playing the position for just a couple of years. But thanks to a creative coach, Doughty has blossomed into arguably the best 18-year-old defenseman in the world.
"I was a center my whole life until about five or six years ago," Doughty said. "In major bantam I was still a forward, but I played defense in training camp because we were short D-men, and the coach ended up thinking I could become a better defenseman than forward. He decided to try me out, and I would still play forward on some power plays. I guess it worked out for the best."
Doughty occasionally played forward during Guelph's power plays, but with top-line talent like Anze Kopitar
and Alexander Frolov
, he'll help the Kings' power play the most from the point.
Doughty attributes his power play success to his accurate shot.
"One of the main things on our power play is for me to get pucks to the net," Doughty told the Kings' web site. "I don't really have the hardest shot or anything, but I work on it a lot and I've become a lot more accurate. My main thing is just getting pucks on net for rebounds, or sometimes they'll slip in."
In a draft year that was dubbed, "the year of the defenseman," Doughty was the first of four defensemen selected in the first five picks of the draft. An All-Star defenseman is essential for a successful franchise -- just ask the Detroit Red Wings
, which feature six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom
LOS ANGELES KINGS
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(15th West/29th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07
(15th West/30th NHL)
(13th West/27th NHL)
of the Red Wings is probably my favorite defenseman in the NHL, without a doubt," Doughty said. "He's a very calm player who makes everything look so easy -- good shot and great vision and very good skater. He's consistent, plays hard every game. I really try to model my game after him."
Doughty isn't quite at Lidstrom's level yet, but he has been mentioned by some as the most NHL-ready defenseman in the draft. Doughty believes he is ready for the big leagues now.
"I think I'm ready," Doughty told the Guelph Mercury. "I think if I make that next step it will make me elevate my game a little bit. Here in Guelph this year I thought I played fairly well, but I don't think I had the edge I had my first two seasons."
There is no doubt that he will have plenty of talented youthful companionship on the Kings' blue line. Jack Johnson
was just 20 when he started last season with the Kings; Thomas Hickey
, taken fourth in the 2007 draft, is just 19 but will get a shot at winning an NHL job; and Matt Greene
, 25, came over from Edmonton in a trade for Lubomir Visnovsky
. Greene, who played just 46 games last season due to an ankle injury, is likely to see major minutes this year for the Kings.