Finishing off the blueline reviews with Drew Doughty, who paced the backend in most categories during the 2022-23 season.
Doughty’s headline can essentially be the same as it’s been throughout much of his career, at least in terms of role. Doughty is the team’s number-one defenseman, playing in that spot once again this season. As will be shown below, Doughty’s season was strong as he produced offensively to the tune of some of the strongest numbers of his NHL career, on top of the solid defensive metrics we’ve come to expect.
LAK Statline – 81 games played, 9 goals, 43 assists, +12 rating, 34 penalty minutes
Playoff Statline – 6 games played, 0 goals, 3 assists, -5 rating, 4 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 52.5% (+0.4%), SCF% – 53.3% (+0.7%), HDCF% – 52.4% (-3.0%)
Drew Doughty was his workhorse self this season. No defenseman around the NHL played more minutes than Drew Doughty. On a per-game basis, only Cale Makar outpaced him. The former stat is important, because of how Doughty’s 2021-22 season ended. Doughty played in just 40 games a season ago, with a pair of injuries limiting his availability and costing him his return to the postseason. Playing 81 of 82 games was good to see, especially when considering there was no drop off when it came to his overall workload.
Doughty, once again, led the way on the blueline in all situations. He paced Kings defensemen in goals, assists and points and logged the team’s top-pairing matchups throughout the course of the season. Unlike last year, Doughty got to taste playoff hockey once again, skating in all six games versus the Oilers, and didn’t suppress his excitement to be back in the postseason. More on his play this season below.
Trending Up – Using common speak, there are two sides of evaluating a defensemen, his offensive contributions and his defensive contributions. Looking deeper into Doughty’s season, he’s got some pretty strong metrics and play to support both of those angles.
“Drew, I thought he had an outstanding season,” Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan said in his exit interview. “There’s ups and downs for every player, but statistically, looking at how he produced with his offensive output, his defensive play was solid……you could see what we missed last year from Drew, in the locker room, during the playoffs, just verbally with what’s coming out of his mouth and his intensity, we missed that last year and we had it this year, which was good.”
Starting defensively, because that’s probably where Doughty would start himself, no Kings regular allowed fewer shot attempts per/60 than Doughty did this season. He also ranked in the Top 15 around the NHL in shot attempts and shots on goal against, per/60, when on the ice. Doughty’s 5-on-5 matchups were among the toughest in the NHL – his most common forwards faced in the regular season were Connor McDavid, JT Miller and Clayton Keller – and his goals against per/60 were lower than all other Kings defensemen besides partner Mikey Anderson. As a duo, Anderson and Doughty suppressed shots on goal and shot attempts as well as any pairing around the NHL, ranking second and fifth respectively amongst the 55 pairs with at least 500 minutes together at 5-on-5.
Though his chances for metrics at 5-on-5 were down, his production was outstanding. Doughty cracked 40 assists for just the third time in his NHL career, while he broke 50 points for just the fourth time. Doughty also rallied late in the season to tie for the team lead with nine goals, his highest total since 2017-18. Doughty was one of the NHL’s most productive defensemen on the power play, as he ranked seventh in the NHL in power-play points per/60 with the most productive season of his career. One factor in a resurgent Kings PP unit that ranked fourth in the NHL this season.
Trending Down – In his end-of-season interview, Doughty expressed disappointment in his postseason performance, specifically from an offensive standpoint. The blueliner tallied three assists over the six games against the Oilers, but hoped to have contributed more at the offensive end. Overall, as noted in Anderson’s season review, the pairing hoped to have delivered more against the Oilers overall. Four goals for, compared to eight goals against, is something that both players would have liked to have gone differently, especially when looking at a relatively even split of chances. For the Kings to succeed in the postseason moving forward, they’ll need that top level from their top pairing.
Again similar to Anderson, Doughty’s on-ice chances for this season were below what has been produced in the past, though Doughty had an outstanding individual season from a production standpoint. Doughty’s power-play production bolstered his overall totals to strong levels and while his goals per/60 were almost identical to last season, at 5-on-5, his assists were down. While his relative metrics were lower than last season compared to teammates, they were towards the higher end of his career metrics. Feels kind of like we’re splitting hairs at this point in the article for a player who reached expectations over 82 games.
2023-24 Outlook– We’ve reached the midpoint of Doughty’s long-term, eight-year contract extension, originally signed back in 2018. Doughty has four years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $11 million, making him one of the most secure members within the organization.
Doughty’s regular-season play showed little, if any, drop off from top pairing level. From a production standpoint, it was one of the best offensive seasons of his career. From a defensive standpoint, as noted, his metrics stacked up favorably around the league amongst top-tier defensemen. Barring circumstances outside of his control, Doughty will be the team’s top pairing defenseman on the right side when the puck drops in October, with hopes of replicating a lot of the things he did over the course of this season. With several, promising younger players coming up behind him, Doughty has the potential of leading one of the deepest areas of the organization into next season.