Kings’ Durzi and Spence To Play Key Roles in Wake of Doughty Injury

The Los Angeles Kings recently announced that franchise defenseman Drew Doughty would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery. The team is also missing other regulars on the blue line: Mikey Anderson has yet to return, and Sean Walker has been out for the majority of the season.

With the slew of injuries the Kings have experienced, the team has had to rely on their future core sooner than expected. On defense, that has meant significant playing time for Sean Durzi — 2018 second-round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs — and Jordan Spence — LA’s fourth-round selection in 2019. Both players have stepped up and taken advantage of the opportunity, and they will continue to be relied on through the end of the playoff race and, hopefully, into the playoffs.

Kings Lose Offense and Veteran Presence With an Injured Doughty

Throughout his career, Doughty has been a significant contributor of offense to the Kings, and this season has been no exception. He’s scored seven goals and 24 assists over the course of just 39 games, placing him second on the team in points per game (P/GP), tallying 0.79 per contest.

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Doughty has also been a top performer beyond just the point totals. His 58.82 Corsi for percentage (CF%) ranks second on the team and first for those playing more than six games. This means that the Kings have possessed the puck more than their opponent with him on the ice. His expected goals for percentage has also stayed above 50 — 55.6, to be exact — meaning LA has been expected to outscore their opponent with him on the ice.

Further, Doughty’s goals for per 60 rate (GF/60) of 2.87 ranks third on the team, and he plays the sixth most minutes per game of any player in the league — the most on the Kings — including crucial power-play minutes. In other words, losing him has taken a big hit on the team.

Durzi, Spence Can Bring Doughty-Like Qualities to the Lineup

While losing Doughty has been less than ideal, it has given players like Durzi and Spence a chance to show they belong at the NHL level. Their point totals haven’t replicated Doughty’s, but they combine for a similar contribution: Durzi has put up three goals and 23 assists in 58 games, or 0.45 P/GP, while Spence has recorded two goals and six assists through 18 games, or 0.44 P/GP.

Sean Durzi Los Angeles Kings
Sean Durzi, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Spence’s 58.81 CF% ranks third on the team and second for those playing more than six games, and Durzi has kept his CF% above 50 as well. They’ve also each posted a respectable xGF%: 53.94 for Spence and 50.08 for Durzi. Spence has put up a 2.83 expected goals for per 60 rate (xGF/60), which ranks seventh on the team and fifth for those playing more than 12 games.

Related: Kings’ 2021-22 Midseason Prospects Report

Durzi and Spence have shown this solid play even while racking up significant minutes. Spence ranks fifth on the team, playing 19:46 per night, while Durzi ranks sixth, playing 19:33 per night. Like Doughty, they’ve both seen time on the power play as well; Doughty’s multi-season regularized adjusted plus/minus (RAPM) chart on the power play very much resembles the charts of Durzi and Spence.

There is no replacing Doughty and everything he brings to the Kings. However, Durzi and Spence have brought a similar effect to the team, and they will look to continue their play as the tight playoff race nears its end.

Kings Will Count on Youth for Remainder of the Season

At one point this season, it looked like the Kings were going to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. While they may still do so, the Vegas Golden Knights have shot up the standings, so nothing is guaranteed. Durzi and Spence will have to continue to shine if LA wants to have a shot at making it past the regular season.

Durzi and Spence are not alone, however. The Kings have also counted on young players at forward. Prospects Gabriel Vilardi, Quinton Byfield, and Rasmus Kupari have played on a line together, attempting to convert their high-end skill into points. The more the team can get out of their youth, the more likely it is they will make the playoffs, and Durzi and Spence are doing all they can to make that happen.

Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey

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