The 2020-21 James Norris Memorial Trophy race is heating up and should be a tightly contended contest. Victor Hedman appears to be the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy. But the race gets more interesting afterward. Montreal blueliner Jeff Petry seems to be the consensus number two candidate.
Edmonton Oilers defencemen Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse have dazzled offensively and should be in the mix, while Washington’s John Carlson is in the conversation once again. Defensive stalwarts who provide offence, such as Charlie McAvoy of the Bruins and Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton, are also in the running. However, another name who should be in the running for the Norris Trophy is Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty.
Prior to the 2020-21 season, Doughty vowed to have a bounceback campaign (from ‘Drew Doughty has heard the criticism and is ready to prove naysayers wrong’, The Athletic, 12/31/20). He has more than lived up to this promise and has been playing spectacularly this season.
Due to Doughty’s high-level play, his name should be in the conversation for the league’s most valuable defenceman.
Doughty’s Outstanding Offence
Doughty has been one of the top offensive defencemen this season. He is tied with Nurse for sixth in points among blueliners, only ranking behind Hedman, Barrie, Petry, Carlson and Quinn Hughes in scoring among defensemen. In 30 games played, Doughty has scored seven goals and added 18 assists for a total of 25 points. His assists are tied for 10th among defenders, while his goals are tied for fifth.
His totals are even more impressive when compared to his defensive counterparts on the Kings. LA’s next highest-scoring blueliner is Matt Roy, who has seven points. Mikey Anderson (who plays on Doughty’s pair) has six points. Every other defenceman on the Kings has less than five points. This highlights how Doughty is producing at a much higher clip than other defencemen on his team and is the Kings’ key offensive provider from the blue line. Overall, his 25 points rank second on the entire Kings team, only behind Anze Kopitar’s 37 points.
Most of Doughty’s production has come from the power play, which he quarterbacks. Five of his goals and 10 of his assists have come from the power play. The only defenceman with more goals on the man advantage is Aaron Ekblad (he has six goals). His 10 power play assists rank fifth among blueliners, while his 15 powerplay points rank second among defencemen, only behind Hedman.
Doughty has managed to produce at both even strength and on the power play. His ability to quarterback the Kings’ power play has drastically helped the team. In 2019-20, LA had the 26th ranked power play unit in the league, which capitalized 17.1 percent of the time. Fast forward to 2020-21, and the power play has soared to capitalizing 26% of the time, which ranks sixth in the NHL.
Doughty’s Dominant Defence
Doughty has provided the Kings with good play in the defensive zone. He has excelled at the physical aspects of the game, throwing 45 hits and blocking 43 shots this season. His 1.5 hits per game and 1.4 blocks per game are both very impressive totals.
His 43 shot blocks are tied for 50th in the NHL with Dante Fabbro and Boone Jenner, while his 45 hits are tied with Montreal’s Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot for 47th among blueliners.
Related: Drew Doughty: Hall of Fame Worthy?
Doughty’s defensive play has resulted in the Kings scoring much more than opponents while he is on the ice. When including goals from all strengths (even strength, power play and penalty kill), the Kings have scored 49 goals with him on the ice and given up just 30. This means LA’s goals for percentage (GF%) while Doughty is skating is 62.03 percent.
At five-on-five, Doughty has been out for 19 goals for and 15 against, resulting in LA boasting a five-on-five GF% of 55.88 percent with him on the ice.
Doughty has struggled at four-on-four and three-on-three play, hence him only having a plus/minus of plus-2. However, his five-on-five GF% and total GF% over all-situations highlight how he has a positive effect on the team defensively.
The only knock on Doughty’s play is his atrocious takeaway and giveaway numbers. This season, he only has two takeaways but has given away the puck 25 times. Neither of these numbers is good, but out of the past five Norris Trophy winners (including Doughty’s win in 2016), only Mark Giordano had a positive takeaway-to-giveaway ratio the season he won it.
In fact, Doughty had 10 takeaways and 97 giveaways in 2015-16, the year in which he earned his first and thus far only Norris Trophy, meaning having a negative takeaway-to-giveaway ratio hasn’t been a disqualifying stat for previous Norris winners.
Don’t Doubt Doughty
In 2020-21, Doughty has provided the Kings with stability in the defensive zone and outstanding offence. He is having a bounceback season. And should he continue to play at this level, he will cement himself as one of the frontrunners in the Norris Trophy conversation.
I am a lifelong hockey fan who will be covering the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks here at The Hockey Writers. Before joining The Hockey Writers I spent two years blogging about hockey.
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