VANCOUVER – Drew Doughty is starting to suspect he has his own personal scriptwriter in the sky.
So far The Drew Doughty Story is a real page-turner and the next chapter is about to be written in the next couple of weeks or months.
“I'm surprised it's all happened so soon and the way it's happened,” he said prior to the Los Angeles Kings-Vancouver Canucks lid lifter here Thursday night.
It's one thing to get invited to the Canadian Olympic team camp after a rookie season in the NHL as an 18-year-year-old.
“I didn't expect that,” he said.
Doughty figured he was there for the experience more than to embark on an experience of a lifetime.
“Then to make the team. That's an even better story,” he said of being the youngest player to be picked for the team ahead of Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf.
“Then to come here for the Olympics and win the gold medal ... That's just unbelievable.”
But it keeps coming.
“To come back to the place where we won that gold medal to play my first Stanley Cup playoff game of my life, well, that's just perfect. It's going to be one of the big memories of my life.
“I'm pumped to play here again. I'm really pumped. I've got some really good memories from here,” he said after the Kings morning skate.
It hasn't been a full two years since he was the second pick in the NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings after winning gold at the World Junior where he was named the top defenceman in the tournament. He made the all-rookie team in the NHL last year and then went over to the world championships and won a silver medal.
But to do what he did at the Olympics certified the London, Ont. product as a special player.
There were no lack of testimonials to that effect as the series got set to open here.
“He really impressed me,” said national netminder Roberto Luongo of the Canucks.
“Obviously he's a very young guy. But I thought he was one of our best defencemen on the whole team.
He really opened the eyes of a lot of people.”
One of those was Alain Vigneault who went further than to suggest Doughty was “one of” the best defencemen.
“He was probably the best defenceman for Canada at the Olympics,” said the Canucks coach.
Ryan Smyth, the former Captain Canada from many a world championship and owner of an Olympic gold medal from 2002, said his team-mates can't wait to see how Doughty does in this playoff series coming off a 16-goal, 59-point season in which he was second among NHL defencmen in goals, third in points and first in game-winning goals.
“He's young, but he's so composed,” said Smyth. “He's not afraid to make mistakes. And he can really change the momentum of a game with his skill. It's not very often you're going to see a defenceman that good at that age,”
Kings coach Terry Murray said watching how Doughty does in his first Stanley Cup series, particularly one involving a Canadian team, is going to be one of the most interesting things about the first round in the playoffs.
“I expect Drew Doughty to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs the way he played for the Canadian Olympic Team.
“This is another big step in his career. I see him playing a lot of minutes and having a big bite in this series. And I think it's great that it's in Canada for all the guys who haven't played in a Stanley Cup playoff series before,” said the coach of the team which hasn't played a playoff game since 2002.
“I want them to enjoy it. I want them to soak it all up. I think it's exciting for it to be in Canada with all of you guys around and a lot of attention they haven't really had until now.
There's going to be an innocence coming into it. You saw that with Drew at the Olympics.”
Doughty says experience is probably preferable but that innocence if properly harnessed can work for you.
“I'm a little bit nervous and a little bit excited. I know what it's likely to be like in here. It's going to be pretty crazy. A lot of us have never been in this before. But I think it'll be like the Olympics for these games here. I think it will be a whole different level of hockey. I think it will compare to the Olympics.
The Olympics are the highest level you can play at.”