The evolution of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty continued Saturday night at Staples Center. The numbers might not reflect it, but years from now Doughty might very well look back on the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season as a turning point in his career.
Doughty went into the Kings’ game against the rival Ducks with four goals and 14 assists in 41 games, off the pace for last season’s 10 goals and 26 assists in 77 games. He admitted it bothered him to see his production slow to only a trickle.
Then he realized there was more to the game than simply goals and assists, especially for a 23-year-old defenseman stepping into new roles with a pair of veteran teammates sidelined by what very well could turn out to be season-long injuries.
“It was tough at the start, especially when I wasn’t putting up points,” Doughty said before scoring the game’s first goal Saturday. “I’m used to putting up points and I wasn’t doing it at all. I was still creating chances, but just wasn’t getting the bounces.
“I was playing a more defensive role. Some games I would play with every single guy, every single player on the defensive end except for Slava (Voynov) because he’s a right-handed defenseman. The good thing was I was getting more minutes because of it.”
Doughty also is a right-handed shoot.
If Kings coach Darryl Sutter had his choice, he would play Doughty fewer minutes not more. Doughty went into Saturday’s game averaging a team-leading 26 minutes, 22 seconds, too much for a young defenseman still learning the tricks of the trade, as far as Sutter is concerned.
“As well as Drew is playing, it’d be way better if he was playing in the low 20s,” Sutter said. “Way better for Drew.”
Don’t expect Doughty’s workload to decrease, however. His ice time figures to increase somewhat when the playoffs begin later this month, particularly since he’s been matched with newly-acquired veteran Robyn Regehr in what promises to be a shutdown pair in the postseason.
It’s another opportunity for Doughty to hone his craft.
“I’ve really learned to become more of a professional and a leader,” Doughty said. “I’ve taken more of a role that way on this team. I’m more vocal, whether it’s on the ice or off the ice. I try to help in all areas, not only just in my play.
“That’s definitely something I’ve learned this year, to be more of a professional. It’s not just the game that matters. It’s the stuff leading up to the game, whether it’s the night before or the day of. There’s a lot of things that go into preparation. I’ve learned those things.”