For LA Kings prospect Braden Doyle, his USHL career has come to a close. But, his coach, Oliver David, reflected on the youngster’s career.

In recent years, the LA Kings have restored their strength in prospect quality. However, even though some of them may not be donning the silver-and-black anytime soon, that does not mean that they are afterthoughts. Far from it, in fact.

This is the case for LA Kings prospect Braden Doyle who has progressed very well as a solid offensive defenseman in the developmental USHL — one who models his game after San Jose Sharks blueliner, and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson.

Drafted in the sixth round (157th overall) by the Kings in 2019, Doyle brings plenty to the table, including his two biggest attractions: his character and his desire to get better. While he does have some work to do to prepare for the professional ranks, the native of Lynnfield, Mass., is not the least bit deterred for the road ahead.

In fact, he’s excited about it. Heck, the extra year given to Doyle in the USHL due to COVID-19 has further prepared him for his next stop: the collegiate ranks at Boston University this coming fall.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Doyle’s USHL coach, Oliver David, of the Dubuque Fighting Saints about the youngster’s game, attitude, and high level of communication, which is helping him become a better all-around player.

“We expected a highly-skilled player that is going to be capable of creating well-above-average opportunities with the puck on his stick,” David said. “We expected [Braden], therefore, to be a main contributor offensively and he’s met and exceeded those expectations.”

In his first full season with Dubuque (2019-20), Doyle was impressive, scoring seven goals and 25 assists in 48 games.

As for David, being from the Los Angeles area himself may have instilled some personal excitement about Doyle being a product of his boyhood team. Regardless of when Doyle will compete for a spot with the Kings, though, David nonetheless saw something special in the 19-year-old long before he was a full-time Fighting Saint.

“It began with trips to Dubuque on spring break two years in a row, practicing with us and even getting into games prior to joining us full-time last season,” David recalled. “For our level, it was a lengthy courtship and recruiting process and all along the way, his strength and character is what he should be really proud of.”

With his exceptional talent and his resume — which included playing for the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s — Braden Doyle could have chosen from a litany of paths that would have quite possibly increased his point-production levels or even fast-tracked his quest to the professional ranks.

When all was said and done, though, the opportunity in Dubuque was simply too much to pass up for the defenseman, showcasing another level to his character.

“Braden’s hockey skill set could have taken him in many directions,” David noted. “I would say some of the routes he could have chosen could have been much easier and much more prolific in terms of ability to get points in leagues that aren’t as difficult to play in or not even as far away from home, for example. He would show what I would categorize as the hardest and most unknown option.

“Although we got to know each other for a couple of years, you don’t know until you live it and he did it. He stuck with it and he showed us in Dubuque. That’s what I’m most proud of for him: Whether he realizes it or not, the decision to do so in the long run, taking the road less traveled, taking the much more difficult path in terms of what’s been presented to him to continue his hockey education and his education in general. I would call that a strength of character for him.”

While the 2019-20 season was cut short due to COVID-19, the campaign was a noteworthy one for both Doyle and David nonetheless. While the former used his rookie season to break out as a USHL star, the latter’s coaching method went a long way for not only Doyle but the entire Fighting Saints team.

In fact, David’s efforts won him Coach of the Year honors. To suggest that Doyle and David have complemented each other well would certainly be an understatement. In fact, it is Doyle’s desire for solid communication that was instrumental in both his and his coach’s success.

“He has a desire to learn and to listen and the process is something that is a big strength of his,” David explained. “He’s not going to shy away from what needs to be done. He’s got a long way to go which, for me, is not a weakness or not a knock. It is something that if you’re in the game and you’re coaching in a game, hopefully, you’re in it for the right reasons. In our case in Dubuque, we see a player with Braden’s ability and desire to better himself, there’s no greater excitement and he possesses everything that a coach with that value system would relish being around a kid like Braden.”

“Braden is open and appreciative when being coached,” Oliver added. “He practices intently and seems to enjoy the game. As long as he remains engaged and eager to learn, he will set himself up with opportunities to play the game as a professional.”

While he was initially supposed to begin his collegiate career in 2020, the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 curbed those plans. Instead, it paved the way for an extra season in Dubuque. But, if Doyle was disappointed in having to wait an extra year to begin play at Boston University, he did a fine job of concealing it.

In fact, the blueliner made the best of his extra season in Dubuque, scoring five goals and adding 19 assists in 51 games. He even notched a tally in Dubuque’s brief stay in the playoffs. Nevertheless, Coach David remained impressed with the defenseman.

“Braden took steps towards developing his game defensively this season, which he needed to do in preparation to play for Boston University,” explained the coach. “Towards the end of the season, he effectively added to his offensive abilities by being more of an offensive generator, finding the pass, and simply advancing play.”

LA Kings Braden Doyle
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At 5-foot-11, 164 pounds, skeptics may take one quick look at his measurements and use it as fodder to dismiss Braden Doyle. Then again, size, or lack thereof, is no match for character and heart — two of Doyle’s biggest assets both as a player and as a person.

Given how seasoned he is as a player and how mature he is as a person, it is harder to believe that Doyle is still just 19 years old. The only downside to this is that it may be a while before we see the Massachusetts native compete for a roster spot with the Kings.

Of course, while the legendary Tom Petty (rest his soul) may have said that the waiting is the hardest part, you can be sure that Doyle will maximize this period as fluently as he has already — a process that will not include very much waiting.

If you don’t believe me, just remember past and current Kings who had to wait longer for a spot with the big club before becoming integral members of the team’s Stanley Cup success. Alec Martinez and Trevor Lewis immediately come to mind.

These, of course, are big shoes to fill but let us not forget that Braden Doyle is determined to create his own path. So, when his path does clear for southern California, we need to remember what it is that makes Braden Doyle such a unique competitor. Until then, though, like for Doyle, it’s good to enjoy the ride.

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