Every generation, there are a handful elite defenceman in the NHL, the last one gave us three of the best in Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, and Nicklas Lidstrom. Fast forward to the next generation, several names come to mind including; Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and many others.
With that list of impressive players, comes the question, who is the best?
Some of you may not totally agree, but I think that Drew Doughty is the best all-around defenseman of this generation. Considering all factors including impact, importance to the team, accolades and age especially, I don’t think that anyone else has the resume to match.
He is only 27-years-old and seeing what he has accomplished already, I seriously think that he could have retired at 25 and still be a strong candidate to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame. Here is a look at why I think Doughty should be considered the best defenseman of this generation.
LA Kings hitting a home run at the 2008 NHL Draft
As said in a previous article, drafting Steven Stamkos first overall was a no-brainer in 2008, but I don’t think the Tampa Bay Lightning would have regretted using the pick to draft Drew Doughty that year.
In fact, if you look at Doughty’s impact on the Los Angeles Kings organization and what he has helped them accomplish – two Stanley Cups in three years – some might argue that Doughty might have been the better pick when it’s all said and done.
Especially with Stamkos suffering major injuries in three consecutive years, it looks like his prime years to help the Lightning win a championship might be cut short. Meanwhile, Doughty hasn’t missed more than ten games in any of the nine seasons he has been in the NHL.
Doughty’s early career impact
Coming out of junior, many knew that Drew Doughty was going to be a good, but I don’t think anyone expected him to make the type of impact he did, at least not that early in his career.
He entered the NHL as an 18-year-old and almost instantly became the Kings’ number one defenseman. As a rookie, he averaged almost 24 minutes of ice time per game, the most of any player on his team.
The Kings weren’t great during Doughty’s rookie season (2008/09), but they were able to decrease their goals against total by 32 goals from the season prior. Needless to say, Doughty was a big reason for that, and he was recognized for his efforts by being nominated as a Calder Trophy candidate.
2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics
After Doughty’s rookie season, I still wasn’t fully convinced at how good he was. But my perspective started to change after seeing his performance at the 2010 Olympic Winter games in Vancouver. In a sense, it was his true coming out party that showed the hockey world, that he was for real and here to stay.
Doughty was a surprise selection for a star-studded Team Canada, which featured Hall of Fame blueliners Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. But, as the tournament progressed, the 20-year-old’s impressive play found him a key role on a defensive pairing with Duncan Keith. Eventually, the two became one of the most dominating pairs in the tournament that helped Team Canada capture the gold medal in Vancouver.
Four years later, he took his strong international play to another level. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he led Team Canada in scoring with four goals and was tied for the team lead in points with 6.
Impressively, not only was Doughty able to outscore superstar teammates Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Jamie Benn and many others. But defensively, he played a major role for an undefeated Canadian team, that only allowed three goals in six games – which, in my opinion, made Drew Doughty the most dominant and best overall player in the tournament.
Doughty’s impact on the LA Kings and achievements before 25
Drew Doughty’s NHL career continued to soar after his rookie season. He helped the LA Kings, make the playoffs in five consecutive seasons from the 2009/10 to the 2013/14.
During that time, he averaged 25:31 of ice time per game – the most of any player on his team – and he helped the Los Angeles Kings capture two Stanley Cups in three years. He was an NHL All-Star for all five years and was nominated for the Norris Trophy four times.
But what’s most amazing is that he achieved all of this before his 25th birthday. To put things into perspective, many top defenders don’t come into their prime until they are 25. For example, Nicklas Lidstrom was nominated twice for the Norris Trophy before 25 and didn’t win his first Stanley Cup until he was 26-years-old.
Drew Doughty’s player analysis
In my opinion, Drew Doughty is probably the closest thing you will find that resembles a full package, all-around defenseman. His ability to impact a game from the defense position with his elite two-way play is the best I have ever seen.
He can be used in every situation and is often put up against the other team’s best players. His hockey IQ combined with his poise with the puck allows him to take over and dominate a game at any given time. He also has a highly underrated physical game that makes him one of the hardest players to play against.
In my opinion, a defenceman’s true value is difficult to assess sometimes because a lot of what they do does not translate onto the stat sheet. But one thing is hard to argue against; ice time. Simply put, coaches won’t put you out there if they don’t think that you can handle the job.
In Doughty’s case, he has a career average of 26:11 of ice time per game. He has averaged the most ice time out of any player, in any season, of any team that he has ever played for in his NHL career. That fact alone shows how special of a player he is.
Doughty’s weakness, if there is any?
Early in his career, Doughty was known as a bit of a risk-taker and sometimes caught out of position, but he has vastly improved in that area over the years. You will rarely see him misread a play or make a bad play with the puck. But if he does, he has the skating ability and defensive skills to get back and disrupt the danger.
However, a portion of the credit must go to the LA Kings’ management for surrounding him with the right type of players, players who allow Doughty to take risks and play to his fullest potential. Especially with elite two-way centers like Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter and an all-world goalie in Jonathan Quick.
Doughty’s career forecast
Doughty is one of those rare players who will be in his prime for most of his career. I see him being a strong consideration for several more Norris trophies before he retires. For him, I don’t think it’s so much about his prime years but it’s more about his legacy and what he can do to glorify it.
I think the Los Angeles Kings’ current window of opportunity to win another title is slowly closing. With the main core of players in Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik all aging, some re-tooling may be required soon.
Doughty is still relatively young at 27 and I can’t see the LA Kings trading him anytime soon. So it will be interesting to see what they will do to remain competitive in the wild west.
If you haven’t paid any close attention to Drew Doughty’s impressive career so far, be sure to check out a few LA Kings games, or even some Youtube videos to see how amazing he is. You won’t be disappointed, and will definitely appreciate the beauty of how one of the best defensemen of this era plays the game of hockey.
Do you think Drew Doughty is the best defenseman of this generation? If not, who do you think deserves that title? Tell us what you think in the comment in the section below.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?