LA Kings: End of season review for defenseman Drew Doughty

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) /

LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty enjoyed a bounceback year in the 56-game schedule. He finished 16th in the league with 34 points among defensemen.

Entering the 2021 season, LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty noted that he heard the criticism from various media outlets suggesting he’s both no longer worthy of being labeled an elite defenseman or a spot on Team Canada’s Olympic roster in 2022. The 31-year-old former Norris Trophy winner used the rhetoric as fuel for the season.

Much of the talk during the offseason revolved around finding a left-shot defenseman to pair with Doughty. The LA Kings acquired Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for ECHL forward Brad Morrison. The move was essentially a salary dump for Chicago, as Morrison was later moved in the deal to acquire Vinnie Hinostroza at the trade deadline.

Doughty finished with eight goals and 26 assists, playing in all 56 games. Over an 82-game slate, those numbers project out to approximately 12 goals and 38 assists, numbers consistent when he won the Norris Trophy Award in the 15-16 season.

While the Doughty-Maatta pairing never worked out, the London, Ontario native, found success with an unlikely source. 21-year-old Mikey Anderson stepped up in a big way this season, establishing himself as Doughty’s top pairing partner. The duo accounted for over 810 minutes TOI and a 47.2 xGF%, per MoneyPuck.

In comparison to his last two seasons, Doughty made significant strides in his even-strength offensive and defensive metrics.

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He was terrific on the penalty kill, often giving up his own body to prevent shots from getting through. More, Doughty’s 83 hits nearly matched last season’s total (87) in 11 fewer games.

On the man advantage is where Doughty shined, especially in the first half of the season. He accumulated six goals and 12 assists on the powerplay, a unit that once ranked in the top ten before landing with the 20th best conversion rate (18.9%) as the season petered out.

Doughty continued to log big minutes in the abbreviated schedule, leading the league with an average of 26:23 TOI per game. His plus-minus over the last two seasons was a big sticking point for the defenseman during training camp, noting it was an area where he wanted to improve. Doughty finished with a -14 rating, which was heavily skewed by the last five games in which he accounted for a combined -8, with four of those games coming against the high-powered Avalanche.

For the first time in a few seasons, Doughty appears to have a definitive pairing partner heading into the offseason. He was vocal in Friday’s exit interviews, pushing the organization to make some moves over the summer. While he admitted that he didn’t believe any changes were needed along the blue line, the LA Kings should be in play for a dynamic, left-shot defenseman to pair with Matt Roy.

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Under contract through the 2026-2027 season, Doughty’s numbers should continue on an upward trajectory, especially as the younger players and prospects get more experience, combined with the aforementioned offseason moves to improve the roster.