Teams on prowl for next Tavares, Doughty

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Drew Doughty is the type of player every team will be looking to find Saturday.

A cornerstone, a franchise player, an eventual leader.

The 20 Ontario Hockey League teams will be hoping to find another Doughty somewhere when they participate in the OHL priority draft Saturday.

Last year, the Oshawa Generals selected John Tavares first overall, a young forward who is going to dominate this league for years to come.

The Guelph Storm found the same type of player in Doughty, a defenceman from London whose first season in the OHL caused veteran NHL scouts' jaws to drop.

Doughty has played a full OHL season. He'll play two more before he's eligible for the National Hockey League draft.

"At the beginning of the season, I went to Guelph to evaluate and find out who to keep my eyes on and who to discard," a scout said. "The first four viewings, I couldn't take my eyes off him. So young, yet the poise, patience and composure he showed was unbelievable."

Doughty was selected fifth last year from the London Junior Knights.

When he was drafted, Junior Knights president Joe O'Neill predicted that before Doughty graduates from the OHL he would win the trophy as the league's top defenceman.

At six feet and 195 pounds, Doughty is solid and has great mobility. He stepped into a lot of ice time with the team despite the steep learning curve for playing defence in the OHL. Doughty played a regular shift and was on the No. 1 power play and also killed penalties.

"I was really surprised. I didn't expect to play as much as I did," Doughty said.

"But they gave me the opportunity to play and because of that it gave me confidence."

When the OHL teams go into their draft Saturday, they'll be looking at more than talent. They hope to find a kid who has good character and work ethic, such as Doughty.

Doughty will return to London when school finishes in June. Even though the semifinal loss to the Knights ended his season, he continues to work out. He had to take a break from doing yard work at his billet's home to talk about his season.

"What surprised me was the skill," Doughty said. "Playing AAA, there was obviously some great players but there were a lot of average players. In the OHL, there's hardly any average players."

Much will be expected of the players taken in the top rounds Saturday. Players such as Doughty and Tavares are the exception. High expectations are placed on the shoulders of players who are no more than kids. Many will be leaving home for the first time, having to adjust to a new city and a tiring game and practice schedule. Success isn't always immediate.

"At the start of the year everything was good," Doughty said. "But around Christmas you get tired, your legs would start burning whenever you got off the ice. It kind of got to you. Your mind got tired. You wouldn't participate as well at school. But after Christmas you adapted to it and it got better."

There aren't many Doughty's out there this year. But whether it's a good year or bad, it's all relative. The goal is to get a player who's just a little bit better than the other guy's player.

The Knights traded several of their top picks and players selected with top picks, to build competitive teams for right now. Knowing they need to restock, they are scrambling to obtain as many draft choices as they can.

A good draft can set a team on the right path for years. A bad draft and it may take years for a team to recover.


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