In a career spanning 14 seasons, Drew Doughty has never failed to make his presence known on the ice. Surpassing another milestone in what has been a colorful, decorated career thus far, he recently became the newest member in the elite 1,000 games played club. Here’s a look back at his career and the accomplishments he’s had en route to reaching this feat.
A Product of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft
As if reaching 1,000 games was not enough of an achievement, Doughty did so in an incredibly timely fashion. He was the first player in his draft year to reach the milestone. He did so in just 14 seasons, a testament to his durability. After being selected by the Kings with the second overall pick, he immediately burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old. At the end of his first season, despite playing on a rebuilding team that was unable to make the playoffs, he was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team, a clear marker of his potential to be an impact player.
In the time that has elapsed since his draft, Doughty has emerged as a serious contender for the best overall player of his year. His main detractors tend to nominate that year’s first overall pick, Steven Stamkos, an elite scoring center. While both players have had decorated careers with two Stanley Cups, Mark Yannetti, the Kings’ Director of Amateur Scouting, added merit to the idea that Doughty was the best player in the draft in an interview with Andy Tonge of Mayor’s Manor.
“Drew Doughty was the best player in the world that year. There’s no question in my mind who I would have picked [with the first overall selection]. […] It’s not a slight against [Stamkos]. He’s a generational player, but it just happens that there were two generation players in that draft. For me, you take the generational defenseman over the forward.”Mark Yannetti on Doughty vs Stamkos via Mayor’s Manor
While the debate between Doughty and Stamkos is ongoing, it is widely accepted that Doughty is the best defenseman to come out of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. This is impressive given the incredible defensive depth in his year featuring the likes of Erik Karlsson, Roman Josi, John Carlson, and Alex Pietrangelo. Nevertheless, Doughty has always stood out due to his ability to combine offensive creativity with defensive awareness making him a trusted player in all situations.
The Kings’ Cup Years
There was no time more special to be a Kings fan than during their Cup runs in 2012 and 2014. However, the 2011-2012 season, when the Kings captured their first-ever Stanley Cup, got off to a rocky start for Doughty and the Kings. Doughty missed training camp and several preseason games due to stalled contract negotiations between him and the team. Upon agreeing to a new deal, he suffered an injury and missed five games. He struggled after returning just as the team, as a whole, failed to produce offensively. The Kings had high expectations going into the season, and they simply could not live up to them.
A change was made: the team replaced head coach Terry Murray with Daryl Sutter in December, and there was an almost immediate improvement. The team managed to sneak themselves into the 2012 playoffs as the Western Conference’s eighth and final seed, a position from which no team had ever managed to win the Stanley Cup. They became a shut-down team, handily defeating the top three seeds in the West, including the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks, en route to a 4-2 series victory in the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils. The Kings were finally champions, and Doughty played a huge role in getting them there.
The 2011-2012 campaign was only Doughty’s fourth season with the Kings. He was extremely young on a team without a lot of playoff experience. Even if they are brimming with talent like the Kings were, some young teams cannot quite make everything click in the playoffs as there is a lot more pressure. Entering the 2012 playoffs, Doughty, Anže Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, nor Dustin Brown had ever won a playoff series. Nevertheless, the Kings simply put on a defensive clinic throughout their run.
It is no coincidence that netminder Jonathan Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. While Quick dazzled with some of his career-best play, he did not do it alone: the defensive brilliance of the Kings is what made it possible for Quick to come up big in the moments when he needed to. Having recently solidified himself as the team’s best defenseman, Doughty proved to be a dominant force.
Averaging over 26 minutes in ice time a game, Doughty led the NHL in assists with 12 and had 16 points throughout the 20 game run. He also boasted a staggering plus/minus plus-11 on a team with a 1.41 goals-against average (GAA). His play was essential to the defensive identity the Kings built, and his role with the team would only continue to grow.
The Kings’ 2014 Cup run was, perhaps, the polar opposite of the team’s 2012 run. While in 2012, they were a completely dominant force, 2014 required them to continually dig deep and fight their way back in games and series. The playoff run even looked as if it was over before it began. In the quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks, the Sharks had a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Kings were on the verge of being swept. The core had to rise to the occasion, and Doughty represented a steady, optimistic presence.
“Right now, playing a rival in the San Jose Sharks and being down 3-0, now it’s our turn to sweep them. We need to win four in a row. That’s the bottom line. Take it one game at a time, but we have full confidence we can do it. No one in here is going to tell us that we can’t. We all believe in each other and believe in ourselves as a team. We know we can do it.”Drew Doughty on loosing game three via lakingsinsider.com
Doughty did not simply say that he believed the team could do it, he ensured that they made it happen. His positive attitude spread throughout the team, and they rallied to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in NHL history. The Kings went down 0-1 in Game 7, and Doughty was the one to step up and tie it up. From there, the Kings dominated to win the series.
This can-do attitude persisted for the rest of the run, and Doughty continued to shine. He led all NHL defensemen in scoring with five goals and 18 points in a grueling 26 game campaign. Although it would eventually be awarded to Justin Williams, Doughty was a serious contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He also averaged nearly 29 minutes a game, which is beyond impressive considering the caliber of teams the Kings were playing. The 2014 playoff run is when Doughty proved himself to be one of the league’s elite defensemen.
Doughty’s Emerging Leadership Qualities
One thing that is often overlooked when revisiting the Kings’ Cup runs was exactly how young the team was. Doughty is, by four years, the youngest of the Kings still-intact four-man core that consists of himself, Brown, Kopitar, and Quick. Doughty was just 22 when the Kings won their first Cup. While the other players had already fully established themselves as leaders, Doughty just was not there yet. However, one important shift was made between the 2012 and 2014 runs: he went from being the junior to senior partner on his defensive line. That was the first step to him establishing himself as a bonafide leader.
It was during the 2014 run, however, that he really started to emerge as a leader in the locker room. He began to embody a vocal leadership type, as seen with the aforementioned quote when the team was down 0-3 in the Sharks series. By the 2016-2017 season, the Kings agreed that he was ready for an official leadership position, and he was named an alternate captain.
Part of his leadership style is being completely unafraid to call himself and the team out publicly when they are not playing well. Just last year, he ripped into the team because they were not playing with enough urgency, especially to start off games. While it is hard to hear, it is important to have a voice willing to say this, especially for the Kings, where it balances out Kopitar and Brown’s leadership style that focuses on leading by example.
Another aspect of Doughty’s leadership is how much he enjoys playing the game. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and simply has fun on the ice. Every time he scores a goal, he celebrates like a rookie just finding his way in the league. This attitude is infectious: younger players see him and remember how fun the game of hockey is, even for decorated veterans. In his leadership style, Doughty has found an outstanding balance between lovable goofball and a serious leader who will not accept anything short of the team’s best.
Doughty’s Career Decorations
Aside from the impressive feat of being a two-time Stanley Cup champion, Doughty is a highly decorated player both in the NHL and international play. He participated in five consecutive All-Star Games from 2015 through 2019. He has also twice been named to the NHL First All-Star Team (2016 and 2018) and the NHL Second All-Star Team (2010 and 2015). In 2016, on his third nomination, he won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding defenseman.
Internationally, he began to represent Team Canada at a young age. His first major event was the 2008 World Junior Championship. With a team consisting of future NHL stars including Claude Giroux, Stamkos, and P.K. Subban, Canada captured the gold medal in an overtime game against Team Sweden. The following year, Doughty and Canada won a silver medal in the World Championship. He has twice represented Team Canada in the Olympic games, winning two gold medals in 2010 and 2014. He last represented his country in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, earning himself yet another gold medal.
Game 1,000 and Beyond
Drew Doughty has already cemented himself as one of the best defensemen the league has seen in this century. He is a lock for having his number eight retired by the Los Angeles Kings and will almost certainly join the Hockey Hall of Fame upon the conclusion of his career. Despite this, he has clearly demonstrated that he has no intentions of retiring anytime soon. He has a lot of gas left in the tank, and he still wants to win.
Throughout his career, Doughty has been incredibly durable, especially when considering the amount of ice time he plays every single night and that it is always in the toughest situations. While he is the 359th player to reach the 1,000-game plateau, he is only the twelfth to do so with one franchise while missing less than 40 games en-route to the milestone. He also became the fifth player in franchise history to play 1,000 games with the Kings. With 559 career points, he ranks already ranks first all-time among Kings defensemen and ninth overall.
Doughty is truly the heart and soul of the team. A true testament to this occurred during his 1,000th game last Thursday against the New York Islanders when the entire team donned masks showcasing his toothless grin and hats honoring his achievement. The whole team embraced some of his characteristic goofiness in a tribute he must have appreciated.
Doughty picked up an assist on his big night in a 3-2 victory. The game also saw Quinton Byfield’s first career goal. Byfield was drafted by the Kings with their 2020 second overall pick, the same position from which Doughty was drafted twelve years earlier. There is something poetic about Byfield’s first career milestone coming on the same night as Doughty’s most recent milestone. Perhaps it is symbolic of a new era of future Kings legends coming in.
As some of the Kings’ prospects start to matriculate onto the team, they are getting the benefit of playing alongside a player like Doughty. They have a lot to learn from him: creative playmaking, leadership skills, and conditioning. Luckily for them, he is not going anywhere anytime soon. While the past few seasons have been rocky for the Kings, the team is on the brink of becoming a legitimate playoff threat once again.
If all goes right, Doughty may have the unique opportunity to be a part of two completely different contending squads: one at the beginning and one at the end of his Hall of Fame worthy career. If there is one thing anyone knows about Doughty, he loves to win and that he is determined. He will certainly do anything in his power to become a champion once again.