In May 2021, Drew Doughty opened up about his distaste for being on a losing team and his appetite for Kings management to significantly improve the club’s NHL roster that summer. GM Rob Blake did his best to grant those wishes by adding Phillip Danault, Viktor Arvidsson, and Alex Edler.
Doughty came into training camp last September talking a good game — hyping up the moves made by Blake and letting it be known he thought the Kings would be much better in 2021-22. The former Norris Trophy winner even extended his enthusiasm for the revamped LA hockey team by putting up 31 points in 39 games before having to be shut down for the season in early March due to a wrist injury.
After waiting four years to sniff the postseason again, Doughty couldn’t play a single shift vs. Edmonton last spring. That’s the past now, though. Rested and ready to go, he made his preseason debut on Wednesday night.
“I’m excited,” he exclaimed, with much of the usual optimism we’ve come to expect from the 32-year-old blueliner. “I was injured a lot of last year. It hurt not playing. I didn’t like watching, so this summer — once the wrist healed up a little bit — I was just determined to come into camp in the best shape that I’ve ever come in. I had a lot of time to do that with the injury. I even skated earlier than usual, and I felt pretty ready.”
And he went on to give himself a passing grade after clearing the first hurdle.
“I actually thought I played quite fine for my first game in six months,” quipped Doughty. “I was pretty happy with the way it all panned out. In your first game, you’re just trying to get — it’s more the defense that you need to get back. It’s hard. You’re not used to stopping and going back and forth when the forward is trying to get around you. It’s about getting your defense back. I that’s the most important thing in exhibition, for me anyway.”
Following Wednesday’s loss to the visiting Sharks, Todd McLellan largely agreed with Doughty’s assessment and his excitement.
“Nice to see number eight back out there,” began the Kings head coach. “He has enthusiasm, he’s excited to play. But he’s trying to find his game, it’s been a while since he played. That was a tough night to do it. Even for us, we can’t really evaluate [players after this game]. We’ll look at where players were going, but the ice conditions were terrible and the ability to connect passes and stuff wasn’t really good – that’s Drew’s game. But he got a sweat, he got to play in and around players, get physical. It’s great.”
Looping back to Doughty, he also shared some insight into something else that was going on over the summer — discussions surrounding a new contract for Mikey Anderson.
Never one to shy away from giving a teammate some advice, what did he share with his D-partner?
“I don’t think he took my advice,” Doughty said, followed by his trademark laugh. “I told him, ‘Take what you can get.’ So, I don’t think he took my advice. I also told him we need you on the team, but don’t let them [screw] you over.”
To hear Anderson tell it, his new one-year contract was an opportunity to bet on himself and look for a bigger deal next summer.
Thinking back to the earlier years of Doughty’s career, he actually missed training camp due to a contract problem. Did he perhaps remind Anderson of the importance of getting a deal done in time to make the start of camp this year?
“It did suck when I missed that time in camp, I had a rough start to that season,” Doughty remarked while briefly reminiscing. “But we ended up winning the Cup, so it all worked out.”
He always finds the silver lining.
Lead Photo via Daniel Stopani
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