There was a time, believe it or not, when Drew Doughty
wasn’t too happy about manning the blue line.
“I played center my whole life, and not until my bantam year (with the London Junior Knights), when we were short defensemen in training camp, did the coach put me back there,’’ Doughty told NHL.com. “As it turned out, I did pretty well, so he asked me to play defense the rest of the year. I wasn’t too happy with the decision, but it wasn’t soon after that I started to like it and now I love it.’’
Five years later, those who watch Doughty can see why.
“He’s a defenseman around which a team is going to build the next 10 years,’’ said E.J. McGuire, the NHL’s Director of Central Scouting. “A lot of his hockey experience translates into on-ice intelligence. It’s hard to find that in a young defenseman. Drew probably is one of the guys most able to step into the NHL next year.’’
His impeccable resume and unabated desire certainly have earned him high praise.
Doughty was one of four 2008 Draft-eligible players to help Team Canada win a fourth straight gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships. He was named the tournament’s top defenseman after recording four assists in seven games, and became the first Canadian defender to win the award before being drafted into the NHL.
“I really don’t know if I have any preference on where I go in the draft, I just hope that I go as high as I can,’’ said Doughty, a fan of the Los Angeles Kings
, who own the second-overall pick. “I’m just really happy to have an opportunity to be drafted and can’t wait for it to get here.’’
, who coached Doughty the last three seasons with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, is confident his 18-year-old prodigy will be a successful pro.
“The enthusiasm that he brings every time he steps on the ice, whether it’s a practice or a game, is what makes him a special player,’’ Barr said. “Drew has a very high patience level in regards to holding onto the puck and making decisions, and he usually makes good decisions.”
In 2007-08, Doughty finished ninth in scoring among OHL defensemen with 50 points, and his nine power-play goals ranked third for the Storm. One of his biggest supporters at Guelph was current Philadelphia Flyers
defenseman Ryan Parent
, who played two seasons with Doughty.
“Ryan was a great mentor for me in my first two years (in Guelph),’’ Doughty said. “Not only is he a great hockey player, but off the ice he’s a very good individual and a very smart guy. He taught me a lot my first two years when I wasn’t very good defensively. I played with him, so it kind of worked out for the best for both of us. He taught me a lot about playing defensive and was a good person off the ice.’’
There are skeptics, however, who feel Doughty, who totaled 144 penalty minutes the last two seasons with the Storm, lacks a physical feistiness.
“I think any knock that anyone sees in Drew’s physical play is certainly made up with his high-end playmaking and puck skill,’’ said Chris Edwards, who scouts the Ontario Hockey League for NHL Central Scouting. “Everything about Drew’s game is NHL caliber. There are defensemen in the NHL today who can play a high-end game who aren’t overly physical and Drew is the same way.’’
“I do want to become more of a physical guy,’’ Doughty said. “I like to take the body and take guys down low, and that’s an area of my game I’m going to continue to work on and get stronger.
“I think my style is more just of an offensive defenseman. I know that in my first two years with Guelph, I wasn't very good in my own zone and this year, playing the (Canada-Russia) Super Series and World Juniors, I really worked on my defensive game. Now I hope people view me as a solid two-way player.’’
Kitchener Rangers forward Mikkel Boedker
, ranked No. 11 by Central Scouting, had a chance to face many of the highly regarded defensemen in the 2008 Draft class during this past OHL season.
“I would say Drew Doughty
(was toughest to play against),’’ Boedker said. “He just reads the play so well and makes it seem so easy when he’s skating out there. Sometimes it feels like he’s a step ahead of you.’’
Doughty said he would like to pattern his overall game after Detroit Red Wings
captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, whom he met at the 2008 Top Prospect Luncheon prior to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Detroit.
“Lidstrom 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. He possesses a good shot, has great vision and is a great skater. He’s consistent, plays hard and he’s the best player on the ice every night he’s out there.’’
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.