He may have needed patience over the past 18 months, but for Braden Doyle, LA Kings’ development camp was worth the wait.
Given how unprecedented 2020 was, the hockey world was forced to adapt. Braden Doyle was no exception to this. Instead of beginning his commitment at Boston University, the LA Kings prospect decided to stay with his USHL team, the Dubuque Fighting Saints, for another season. If the 20-year-old was disappointed, however, he did a fine job of concealing it. Instead, he made the best of a challenging situation.
Drafted in the sixth round (157th overall) by the Kings in 2019, Doyle is a solid puck-moving defenseman who is good on his feet — err, skates. He even models his game after current San Jose Sharks defenseman — and two-time Norris Trophy winner — Erik Karlsson. Not a bad player to emulate, to be honest. Still, Doyle knows that there is room for improvement in his game and, especially given the two-year absence, the Lynnfield, Mass., native is that much more excited to be in Los Angeles this week. He spoke to the media on Wednesday following Day 3 of Kings’ Development Camp.
“Yeah, it’s been awesome,” Doyle beamed. “It’s a lot of different coming to this camp rather than the first one. The first one was, like, I think I was the youngest guy here and had some nerves going, but this place is awesome. I mean, the development staff, too. I’ve been talking to them. I mean, we haven’t had camp, haven’t been in person [prior to this week] but have talked to them over the phone. So, it’s just great to be here, like, to be working with these guys, see everyone in person. I mean, all the guys here are just great guys. Awesome place to be.”
As for delaying the start of his collegiate career, Doyle addressed that with the media, as well.
“Last year, I was supposed to go into BU, and then COVID hit and everything,” Doyle noted. “So, I just decided to take a year, take a step back, take another year in junior. Like, why rush my development? I’m still pretty young. And take another year to just work defensively. That’s a big part of my game that I’ve been working on. Like, all last year, I mean, it was a challenge but got something out of it, and then just excited for the opportunities ahead.”
As for this fall, Doyle’s plans, unlike in 2020, are much clearer now.
“My plan is BU this year,” he said. “Been waiting for a while now, but I’m excited to get going into college.”
Earlier this month, I spoke with Doyle’s USHL coach, Oliver David, who was excited to have his blueliner back for another season. David made it a point of emphasis to mention the 20-year-old’s knack for taking the more difficult route if it meant learning and growing more as a player.
“Braden’s hockey skill set could have taken him in many directions,” David told me. “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.”
As for how things are going at Kings’ development camp in El Segundo, Doyle is like a sponge, learning so much from the Kings’ development team, who just happened to be integral figures in the club’s rebuild and ultimate success in the early 2010s.
“Definitely a lot better, a lot more confident out there,” Doyle stressed of how he’s feeling at dev camp. “And then working with the guys: [Matt] Greene and [Sean] O’Donnell. They’re just great, working with us like [defensively], we have meetings with them, we’ve been now working on position, like, working on D-zone position and just making the game easier and just so much more effective when you’re out there. They just know the game and listening to them, learning from them, it’s been helping me a lot.”
Even though he was a late draft pick two years ago, there is nonetheless something noteworthy about Braden Doyle — something that any professional team can appreciate, even if he wasn’t high on many radars in 2019.
From having an unquestionable work ethic to a sheer desire to learn and to improve, Braden Doyle certainly has what it takes to be a player’s player, if you will. He may not be the most threatening goal-scorer — 12 combined goals in 99 games for Dubuque — but Doyle nonetheless brings a plethora of assets — including an infectious go-get-em attitude — to the table that can certainly make him one of the Kings’ most sacred hidden gems, so to speak.
We may not be seeing him don the silver-and-black this coming season but give Braden Doyle some time at Boston University — one of the most successful college hockey programs in the United States — and we will see just how valuable a gem the young defenseman really is. It’s just a matter of being patient.