EL SEGUNDO, CA — If there is anything that Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Drew Doughty needs to work on, confidence and optimism are not on the list.
Indeed, the Kings’ first round pick (second overall) in the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft this past June was a standout at the Kings’ 2008 Development Camp earlier this month where he joined many other young prospects, all dreaming of one day making it to the bright lights of the NHL.
“I like it a lot, Doughty said of Development Camp. “I was really looking forward to coming here after the draft. It’s great to be here.”
“A lot of the guys I’ve known through playing against them or playing with them,” Doughty added. “It’s great to all be on a team now.”
The 18-year-old, 6-0, 219-pound native of London, Ontario, who was the second or third-ranked prospect in the June draft, depending on what hockey publication you were reading, honed his game under the tutelage of the coaching staff from all levels of the Kings’ system.
“It’s stuff that you don’t really learn in junior hockey,” Doughty explained. “It’s great to learn those things. Their main focus is to make us the best players we can be. If we do that, LA will have a lot of success in the future.”
“It helps us out a lot,” Doughty elaborated. “They teach us a lot of little things that some guys don’t do. It’s very helpful. They’re developing us into the best players we can be. One thing that they’re really keen on is deception. Faking, making it look like you’re going to pass somewhere else and the giving it to someone else.”
Prior to the draft, the Kings told Doughty that they wanted him to improve his physical conditioning, and by the time draft day rolled around, he had dropped twenty-five pounds.
“I’ve lost as much weight as I need,” said Doughty. “Right now, I’m just trying to maintain my weight.”
Now that he is in top physical shape, the only question now is to determine his ideal playing weight.
“I might want to play at a little bit heavier weight,” he said. “I’m kinda trying to feel things out.”
Looking ahead and based on the current composition of the Kings, it would seem that Doughty is a virtual lock to make the Kings’ lineup out of training camp.
But whether or not he remains with the big club after ten games is an entirely different question.
Because he still has junior hockey eligibility left, if Doughty plays in ten NHL games, he must remain with the Kings for the rest of the season. But if the Kings decide he is not ready, they can assign him back to the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League prior to the ten-game limit.
Once back with Guelph, Doughty would have to remain there until Guelph’s season is over. But what if Doughty displays the skills and mental make-up to stick with the big club?
“It’ll be a dream come true,” said Doughty. “It’ll be a huge step. The NHL level is so much harder, everyone is so much better. It’s a couple of notches up from the OHL. So I know it’s going to be a tough task, but I’m very prepared to do that. I’ll do everything in my power to make the team.”
The only downside to this is…will Doughty make the team because he truly is good enough to compete at the NHL level, or will it be because the Kings are so bad that they have no choice but to rush him to the NHL before his time?
Either way, Doughty is not concerning himself with such questions. Rather, he is accentuating the positive, to coin a phrase.
“I think it’s a great thing that they’re trying to go with a younger lineup because if you give the younger guys the confidence that they can play in the NHL, they’ll eventually develop into the best players they can be,” Doughty explained. “If everyone develops into the best players they can be, the LA Kings will be a great team one day and hopefully, can make that playoff run that they’ve really been wanting.”
But Doughty is not naive, despite his young age. He knows that being rushed to the NHL is rarely a good thing for a young prospect.
“There’s a risk, definitely,” he said. “But especially here at Development Camp, they have some great prospects coming up and I think they’ll all be great NHL stars one day.”
“I know they have a lot of guys who are still on the team who are unbelievable players so I think they’re doing the right thing,” he added. “It’s definitely a risk but I think it’ll turn out for the best.”
Knowing that the Kings are going with a youth movement and that young teams usually struggle mightily, Doughty seems to have the right attitude about the Kings’ future, which is likely to be quite bleak for at least the next year or two.
“I don’t know if there’s a way to prepare for that,” said Doughty. “I guess you can go into the season hoping for the best. Going in, we’re just going to have to learn a lot.”
Doughty also had a message for the fans, preaching patience.
“People are going to have to realize we’re a young team, but we’re going to be trying our hardest and working our hardest to be the best team we can be.”
Looks like “patience” is going to be a common theme from everyone associated with the Kings for the foreseeable future. The only question now is how much patience do long-suffering Kings’ fans have?
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