Kings’ Prospect Depth Behind Doughty Bodes Well for the Rebuild

In many ways, Drew Doughty’s eight-year, $88 million contract extension creates more questions than it answers. Long contracts do not create certainties in the future, instead, they fix one out of dozens of variables. There’s a Doctor Who quote that says time isn’t linear, “It’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, time-y wime-y stuff.” I guarantee there’s no better fitting definition for trying to explain what future sports rosters might look like.

Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Talking in certainties when discussing professional sports is so bold, but so enticing. If the Los Angeles Kings are willing to say they can see that far into the future, then let’s try to do the same, and see if any other current members of the Kings will still be in black and silver (provided the team still wears those colors) in 2027-28.

Doughty’s Role in the Kings’ Rebuild

Doughty’s contract signals a few things with the Kings’ path forward. Most notably, the Kings see him as having an integral role in the rebuilding of the team. What that role might be, however, is something that has to be determined. Is the team going to be built around him? Is the team going to be built around someone else, with him playing a supporting role that stands as a link between generations? Does the team even need to be built around one player?

With the way the Kings have selected players over the past few seasons, it’s apparent that the team’s identity won’t be Doughty, but someone else. This doesn’t reduce his impact on the future to me. On the contrary, I see him being a high-level player who will represent what the Kings have accomplished in the not so distant past.

The Kings have more prospects at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship than any other team, so keeping such a high-level talent pool invested is important. When rebuilding, team culture is what can help players weather the storm that comes from a few bad seasons. It is much easier to get young players to buy in when signs of success are around them all of the time.

Does Doughty Develop Defensemen?

Once Sean Walker becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2024, there will be only one Kings defenseman from the current lineup remaining. Their blue line prospects show some great potential and will undoubtedly become key pieces of the Kings’ identity in the new decade, but what forces will impact their development? Will Doughty be seen as an integral part of the growth of these burgeoning players?

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Regardless of his role in the rebuild, Doughty’s presence will have a lasting impact on Los Angeles’ burgeoning defensemen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There are five defensive prospects who are signed through 2022, and two until 2023. Of these five, each can learn from different aspects of Doughty’s multi-faceted abilities.

Doughty’s offensive abilities might not be the same as they once were, but they’re still a far cry from being unremarkable. Comfort with the puck and ability to move to open space allows him to be an asset in the development of two-way defensemen like Tobias Bjornfot, Helge Grans, and Sean Durzi. While all three have excelled in their respective leagues, the transition to the NHL is a daunting task. In spite of that, a common element of teams hoping to develop young talent is to keep seasoned players who can help them find their footing.

Tobias Bjornfot Kings Draft
Tobias Bjornfot, Los Angeles Kings, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For physicality, Doughty has maintained his level of intensity throughout his professional career. Signed prospects Jordan Spence and Markus Phillips can look to add muscle to the blue line as Doughty’s ability in this category starts to inevitably deteriorate. Until they’re ready to outgrow their supporting roles, though, Phillips and Spence will gain from having Doughty close by.

Final Thoughts

In reality, it’s most likely that the team will look completely different. With the league’s dynamic trading nature and the volatility that comes with rebuilding, it’s not difficult to argue that even Doughty will not be on the roster in 2027-28. There is, however, one prediction about that season that is bulletproof: The Kings will pay Mike Richards $600,000 in termination fees.

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