Is Drew Doughty Still Good?
A scouting perspective
March 11, 2020. Kings vs. Senators
Matching up against Ottawa’s top line, Drew Doughty starts the game poorly.
The Kings lose possession deep in the Senators’ zone and Ottawa counters 3v3. Ben Hutton, Drew Doughty’s partner, gaps up to the Sens’ Bobby Ryan at the blueline, forcing the right winger into a cross-ice dump off the end boards.
Doughty is sagging back in anticipation and is clearly first on the puck. Except he isn’t. Rather than sprinting back to grab the loose puck, Doughty lets up, turns away from contact and is beat to first touch by Brady Tkachuk.
Colin White sets a moving pick on Anze Kopitar, allowing Tkachuk to round the back of the net. The Sens forward tries to jam the puck low short-side as Doughty recovers to the back post. The attempt turns into a fortuitous cross-seam pass to Bobby Ryan, stationed at the left faceoff dot. Ryan one-times the puck past Cal Petersen as Doughty spins pointlessly.
Scout’s notes: Sags across NZ. Lacks urgency on retrieval. Poor sort net-front. Goal against.
Hutton quarterbacks a Kings rush while Doughty sits back and glides down-ice. The Kings turn the puck over behind the net and the Sens respond with a 2v2 rush.
An elite transitional defenseman such as Jared Spurgeon would have held his ground at the blueline and pinched the play off. But Doughty sags again and concedes the neutral zone. The puck carrier targets Hutton so Doughty attaches to his linemate. He makes a smooth pivot and uses a smart stick to break up the scoring chance.
Scout’s notes: Does not sprint up-ice to support rush. Backs off at OZ blueline instead of pinching. Good defensive skating technique. Good stick to deny chance.
On an Ottawa 3v2, with a Kings forward furiously backchecking, Doughty makes a brilliant read. He sees the Ottawa left winger bobble the puck and pounces despite the numerical disadvantage. Spooked, the Sens player chips the puck into the zone for Hutton to retrieve.
Hutton grabs the puck in Doughty’s corner and bumps it 10 feet to him. Instead of sprinting toward the middle of the ice, Doughty casually surveys the situation and makes a breakout pass to his right winger, who is covered and who immediately plays the puck back to Hutton for a static regroup. Hutton and Doughty play catch. Eventually Hutton forces a play north and the puck is turned over at the far blue line.
Scout’s notes: Good defensive instincts to kill rush. Does not sprint to the middle on first touch. Passes into traffic instead of skating to create an advantage.
Ottawa makes another cross-ice dump toward Doughty’s corner. Once again he chooses not to risk contact and lets his goalie make the retrieval. Petersen stops the puck behind the net while Doughty waits for a pass. Petersen passes into Doughty’s feet as Ottawa’s F1 jumps all over him, but he manages to untangle himself and makes a nifty pop play into low support. The puck changes side and Hutton is the one who ends up making the breakout play. Seconds later Doughty gets the puck with space in the middle of the ice, but passes off instead of carrying.
Scout’s notes: Lacks urgency on retrievals. Good awareness/shoulder check to identify option. Does not sprint/attack middle on first touch.
White attacks Doughty with a burst of outside speed. Doughty pivots the wrong way. Petersen saves the day with a poke check.
Scout’s notes: Trouble defending speed? Skating technique looks good so perhaps a physical issue?
LA goes on the powerplay. Doughty plays the point on the first wave. He quarterbacks the play in-zone and is first man back to retrieve when Ottawa clears. LA eventually get a 5v3 and Doughty calls for the puck repeatedly. He narrowly avoids scoring off a big one-timer.
Scout’s notes: First-unit PP. Commands the puck. Good touch and poise.
Doughty recovers a loose puck in the neutral zone on an Ottawa change. Sniffing an opportunity, he carries down the left wing and cuts toward the net. Thomas Chabot, Ottawa’s last man back, gets a stick on Doughty’s shot and deflects it into the corner.
Scout’s notes: Good offensive instincts to create entry+shot on change.
Doughty’s best play of the period. Once again his gap is loose-ish on a 2v2 rush against, but Hutton pries the puck loose with a good stick at his blue line and the puck goes to Doughty, who shoulder-checks, pivots and sends a laser pass to a Kings forward at the far blue line for a shot.
Scout’s notes: Early shoulder check to ID stretch pass option. Good pass coming out of pivot with urgency.
Two Ottawa forwards are attempting to gain the blue line against Doughty, Hutton and two Kings backcheckers. Once again Doughty gives them a bit more room to breathe than ideal. Once again he lets Hutton make the retrieval under pressure. The puck eventually winds up on Doughty’s stick behind the net. He doesn’t skate, draws in Ottawa’s F1 and then makes a spinning backhand play to Hutton for an exit.
Scout’s notes: - Gap. - Retrieval. - Urgency.
The Kings are set up in the offensive zone. The puck is rimmed low to high toward the right point. Doughty pounds the puck at net from his strong side, then jumps between two defenders and finds himself on the opposite flank a la Alex Ovechkin. Kopitar rolls high and tries to hit Doughty with a long cross-seam pass, but the puck is picked off by a Senators skater.
Scout’s notes: Good offensive movement in OZP. Shooting mentality.
Ottawa’s top line builds speed off the rush. As the puck crosses the Kings’ blue line, Doughty is already backed up to the tops of the circles. Tkachuk cuts to the middle for a threatening chance. At least Doughty doesn’t screen his own goalie. He extends his stick in a last-ditch effort and tips the puck over Petersen’s head and out of play.
Scout: Gap! Good stick.
Ottawa carries across the Kings’ blue line. Doughty is at the top of the circles.
Scout’s notes: Gap! System?
Nice play by Doughty. He directs traffic in his defensive zone, then activates on the breakout and sprints up-ice as F4. He receives a change-of-sides pass in full flight on the right wing, makes a controlled entry and narrowly misses connecting on a slot pass.
Scout’s notes: Good awareness and urgency to jump into play. Could have attacked middle on entry instead of fade wide and attempt low% pass.
With the game tied 1-1 late in the second period, Doughty comes to life offensively. He makes a quick and accurate pass on a regroup that allows the Kings to set up in the OZ, then orchestrates offensive movement by jumping between checks and opening up space for teammates. He threatens the “scoring funnel” in the middle of the ice, forcing the Sens to collapse and allowing the Kings to maintain control. He pinches early to kill an emerging Sens breakout, then makes an elite behind-the-back cross-ice pass to keep the sequence alive and create a scoring chance.
Scout’s notes: Great OZ playmaking and off-puck movement. Threatens middle and moves all over the ice to create space for himself and teammates. Great poise at OZ blue line.
Doughty attaches to Ryan in DZ coverage and follows the Sens forward up and down the zone. A loose puck materializes on the back wall and Ryan, who’s by no means fleet of foot, gets first touch. Instead of pushing his opponent aggressively into the wall and force a battle, Doughty somehow lets him slip free and hook a pass to an open Colin White in front of the net. Petersen sprawls out and keeps the game tied with Kopitar’s help.
Scout’s notes: Attaches early in DZC but loses 1v1 battle. Urgency?
Ottawa scores to move ahead 2-1 and Doughty is hot. Off a neutral-zone faceoff he grabs the puck, lugs it into the OZ and almost ties the game with a cross-slot feed. The attempt leaves him out of position but he sprints and is the third man back in his zone. Once in DZ coverage he is slow to identify his check, momentarily creating a 2v1 disadvantage for Hutton in front of the net against Tkachuk and White, who shovels a backhand chance wide.
Doughty recovers and attaches to Tkachuk, who he cross-checks repeatedly. Both get tangled up in the corner and the referee calls Doughty for tripping – a borderline decision. Doughty, incredulous, pleads his case on the way the box.
Scout’s notes: Creates entry + chance. Poor check ID when returning to DZ. 1v1 defending foot speed? Takes PIM.
Ottawa carries across the Kings’ blue line. Doughty is at the top of the circles.
Scout’s notes: Gap! System! Kings down one! Why?
Ottawa has a 3v2. Doughty overcommits to the left winger, forcing Hutton to prevent a 2v1 by sliding on his stomach. Doughty wins a puck battle to start the counter-attack, but then sits back instead of joining the play.
Scout’s notes: Okay to take chances down one goal, but needs to sprint on counter.
Still down 2-1, the Kings have a powerplay. Doughty facilitates an entry. Everything runs through him at the point. He gets seven puck touches in just over one minute of uninterrupted 5v4 zone time and the Kings creates four scoring chances.
Scout’s notes: Elite offensive vision, deception and playmaking on PP. Plays a bit too much on the perimeter but good puck touches.
The Kings tie the game 2-2 and Doughty turns back the clock at 5v5, killing an Ottawa transition at his blue line and attacking the middle of the ice on the counter.
Scout’s notes: Appears to have been conserving energy earlier in the game. Playing much better now.
Doughty plays his best shift of the game. He neutralizes Tkachuk on an entry against, then picks off an Ottawa pass in the slot, immediately connects on a breakout pass to his right winger and skates to join as F4. The Kings winger draws a penalty and once again Doughty runs the show from the point during the 6v5 sequence.
Scout’s notes: Good DZ + middle breakout play leads to PP.
Doughty is overeager on the PP. He blasts two pucks from the top of the umbrella instead of looking for a better play down low. The game remains tied. One could call it the “Tyson Barrie”: a good strategy to boost a defenseman’s point totals, not so much to increase his team’s overall productivity.
Scout’s notes: Should move + pass as a primary option from the point instead of shooting.
Doughty watches from the bench as LA scores to lead 3-2. On his next shift he continues to press and pinch. He slaps the puck on net from the right half-wall, then fakes out an Ottawa player at the right point and attacks the slot. He tries to reach Hutton, who is cheating down the weak side of the ice, but an Ottawa stick knocks the pass away.
Scout’s notes: Good deception and playmaking in OZ. Plays offense instead of sitting back on late lead.
Doughty is out to kill the Ottawa 6v5. He plays on his toes but doesn’t overcommit to a partial breakaway. LA keeps Ottawa away from Petersen and hangs on to win 3-2.
Scout’s report LAK08:
Lacked urgency and intensity early on. Preferred to let partner Hutton do most of the heavy lifting. Did not seem interested in joining rush or creating offensive advantages for team at 5v5 in first period. Wants the puck at 5v4 when he has time and space to make easy plays.
Did not seem to want to work hard for his touches at 5v5. Skating and stickhandling technique good but did not provide enough effort to leverage skillset. Loose gap when defending NZ. Seemed much more engaged later in the game with the score tight.
Showed flashes of elite defensive and offensive awareness – shoulder checks to ID threats/opportunities. High-end playmaking ability still there.
Has elite tools and ability to take over a game, but seems to lack the motivation or inspiration to do hard things every shift in order to help his team control play. Contrast with players such as Mark Giordano and Shea Weber, who are older and less technically proficient, but more determined physically and mentally to perform = better overall impact on team shot rates for/against.
Could be an effective #2-3 on a Stanley Cup contender, either alongside a good partner in tough minutes or carrying a second pair in easier deployment. Would anticipate him aging relatively better offensively than defensively.
Could rediscover his game in a winning context and with some effort put into redeveloping an edge physically and mentally. Main challenge for him is to find intensity to defend rushes tightly, be first on retrievals and join rush as F4 every shift - foundational tactical pieces for elite Ds when it come to driving play.
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