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Doughty will be 'elite,' Kings coach says

Andy Devlin/2009 NHLI

Another young, up-and-coming team hits Toronto and yet another young star steps into the limelight.

Much like John Tavares earlier this season, Kings rookie Drew Doughty had his own scrum at the ACC to accommodate all of the media at today's game-day skate.

Everyone, in other words, wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

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A little more than a month removed from his 20th birthday, Doughty leads L.A. in ice time (24:34) and is on pace to finish with 61 points and at plus-24 in his second NHL season.

His selection to the Canadian Olympic team on Dec. 30, however, is what really put Doughty on the map this season, as he beat out older stars like Mike Green and Jay Bouwmeester for a roster spot. After missing out on the Calder Trophy last season, he will likely be in the Norris Trophy mix this time around (and for years to come).

While Doughty talked at length about his rise this season, his teammates were back in the dressing room, doing the same.

"Anyway, he's good," winger Ryan Smyth said, drawing laughs after he had already answered a few minutes of Doughty-related questions. "He's the right choice [for the Olympics] in my opinion, for people who don't see him very much."

Teams in the Western Conference - and the Pacific Division in particular - have seen plenty of the wunderkind the past season and a half, as Doughty was leaned on even as an 18 year old early on last season, averaging 23:50 ice time per game.

Last year, however, the Kings struggled to score - especially at even strength - and Doughty posted only 27 points and was minus-17 while facing the opposition's top line every night.

L.A. finished with the fifth-worst record in the league last season, but coach Terry Murray said today that he wasn't worried about putting such a heavy burden on his burgeoning star.

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From his first Kings training camp on, his coach knew Doughty could handle it.

"We loaded him up right away - let's go see what you can do," Murray said. "We had to find out. We made a decision as an organization that we were going to go through a process of putting young guys into the lineup and build it. He was one of the young players.

"What you need to do is push the bar as quickly as possible. I started talking about the playoffs with the Kings last year at this time and I did it with the intent of putting pressure on the team to see who's going to be able to respond. Who do we want to continue to build with? Who can't handle it? Who do you have to move by? That's to me a very important ingredient to keep feeding those young players. They've gotta have a challenge and we've got to have that bar to a certain standard on a daily basis.

"If he's going to be that guy for us, I want to find out right now - I don't want to find out next year or the year after. Let's test him now."

Asked just how good he felt Doughty could be, Murray didn't hesitate.

"He's going to be an elite defenceman," he said. "You can talk about [Ray] Bourque, you can talk about [Scott]Niedermayer. I saw Niedermayer through his whole career in New Jersey and now in Anaheim - he's at that level. He's got the ability to control the pace of the game, to make things happen when it needs to be happening and still recognizing when it needs to be shutdown. His sense for that is innate. It's just there. He has it."

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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