by PuckStopsHere on 12/12/09 at 02:09 PM ET
I think it is clear that the most improved player in the NHL is Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. Doughty, the second year defenceman is among the Norris Trophy favorites. He has 24 points, which places him fourth among defencemen and leads the Kings defence with a +10 +/- rating. Doughty’s 24 points have almost matched his 27 point output in his rookie season. That was a rookie season where he remarkably led the LA Kings in ice time, as an 18 and 19 year old. It was a season where he finished fifth (as the top defenceman) in the Calder Trophy voting.
Doughty has jumped from being the workhorse on a defence with no stars to being one of the best defencemen in the game this season. He has inserted his name as a likely member of the Canadian Olympic Team.
There still exist many questions regarding Doughty. Los Angeles is yet to use him consistently against the toughest competition that they face. What would happen if they do? How will he respond to the further attention he receives when teams game plans against the Kings start to include specific plans to neutralize Doughty? Will increased attention from opposition scouting reveal ways to consistently defeat him? How will he respond to adversity - which he has been able to avoid so far in his young career? How long can he continue to improve at this rate? With another year or two or this improvement rate, Doughty should be playing at the level of the best defencemen of all time.
Drew Doughty turned 20 on December 8th. He is one of the youngest defencemen in the NHL. Most defencemen have not made their NHL debut by his age and he is emerging as one of the best in the game. Drew Doughty is a rare player who has near unlimited potential. If things work out well, he could be one of the greatest ever. Will that happen?
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