When Stevie Y made known his selection for the Canadian Olympic team on December 30, 2009, one name, Drew Doughty, created some real controversy. Who was Doughty and how was he picked over Mike Green, Jay Bouwmeester or even Dion Phaneuf? The answer was simple. Yzerman had seen in Doughty the kind of defenseman he believed he needed on the team to bring home another Olympic medal. Quick, skilled, feisty – Drew Doughty was his man. His belief in the twenty-year-old rearguard was totally vindicated when the puck dropped in Vancouver in February and he became a force to be reckoned with on the Team Canada blue line.
Considered a late-bloomer by the Pro scouts, his path to glory was not that easy. Doughty was not drafted until June 2008 when the Los Angeles Kings, much to his delight, chose him in the first round, second overall. Having grown up a Kings Fan and a Wayne Gretzky worshipper (he still sleeps on a Kings pillow case and wore the number 99 until it was retired in The Great One’s honor), Drew’s lifetime dream came true. That summer he went to the Kings training camp and, at eighteen years old, made the jump to the big team in his first try.
So his rise to the top was more rapid than most. While playing for the London Knights AAA Midget team, he was drafted by the Guelph Storm. Playing for the Storm in the OHL Junior league, his offensive abilities were unquestioned. However, until he was chosen for the Canadian World Junior Team, his defensive prowess was missing. A nose-to-the-grindstone type individual, Drew worked hard in those camps and in the buildup to the World Junior Championships in 2008 to improve those particular skills.
The results were spectacular. Eventually he led the Canada Junior World Cup team to a Gold medal in the Czech Republic that year, being named a Tournament All-Star as well as winning the Directorate Award for Best Defenseman. In 2009 he won a silver medal in the Men’s World’s Ice Hockey Championships in Switzerland when his team lost to Russia 2-1 in the Gold Medal game. His performance caught the eye of Team Canada and he was invited to the tryout camp for the 2010 Olympic Team.
What has excited the hockey world is the high level of Doughty’s skills. Don Cherry has compared his spin-a-rama move to that of Bobby Orr’s, who Cherry coached in both his and Bobby’s heydays.
Other analysts compare his stickhandling and his ability to “see the ice” to that of Doug Harvey, the legendary captain of the Montreal Canadiens. He has both a pinpoint wrist shot and a hard accurate slapper. As the quarterback of the Power Play, his quiet confidence commands the respect of his fellow players. His skating is first class and his anticipation of the developing play can at times amaze the Kings faithful. His moves on defense are as creative as any you can see in the league. Sprawling, lunging, fighting in corners, pounding an oncoming forward who tries to squeeze by him, he is a whirlwind of action. Essentially, he can do it all.
This year, 2009-10, was his career year. His presence on the Kings has been a contributing factor to the re-emergence of a team that had not made the playoffs in a few years. At 6’1”, 203 pounds he loves taking the body and making the big hits on opposing forwards.. His nine PP goals and five game-winning goals attest to his scoring touch. In 82 games he scored 16 goals, had 43 assists and had 142 shots on goal. His outstanding play in the Vancouver Olympics, teamed with the Blackhawks Duncan Keith, raised the profile of both these talented young men to the world-class level.
The icing on the cake came this week when the NHL named Drew, Mike Green of the Washington Capitols and Keith Duncan of the Hawks as the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, awarded each year to the Best Defenseman in the League, . Should he win the trophy in June, he would be the youngest defensemen ever to win that honor with the one exception of Bobby Orr, who was three months younger than him when he won his first of eight. “To be younger than any other winner than Orr is a thrill,” said Doughty at Friday’s practice. “It’s pretty cool. Bobby Orr was one of the best defensemen to play the game. To be close to doing the same thing he did is kind of surprising, I guess, to me, but it is very humbling as well.”
At twenty years of age, we can only imagine what promise this young man’s future holds.