Former LA Kings assistant Jamie Kompon couldn’t contain his pride when speaking about Drew Doughty reaching his 1000-game milestone.
They say hindsight is 20/20. We could argue until we’re blue in the face about how the LA Kings would have fared had they landed the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft and drafted Steven Stamkos. Then again, maybe the Kings would have taken Drew Doughty at No. 1. Nevertheless, we will never know, and, quite frankly, that’s okay. After all, the Kings selecting Drew Doughty with the No. 2 pick that spring was just one of a series of decisions — albeit a major one — that propelled a long-suffering franchise into a Stanley Cup champion. So, while the 2008 Draft Weekend saw the Kings make a plethora of forwarding progress, which included the acquisition of Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, few moves were more significant than drafting Drew Doughty.
Now, as we celebrate Mr. Doughty’s 1,000th-game milestone, we take a look back with Jamie Kompon, a man who saw the defenseman grow for six years — four in Los Angeles and two as an opponent in Chicago.
The former Kings assistant coach went back to 2008, recalling the elation surrounding that special day for the future Norris Trophy winner.
“There was a lot of talk about this young defenseman being a dominant player,” Kompon remembered. “I had the opportunity to watch him play in the World Juniors, so I had a bit of an idea of what type of player he was. But, when you meet the person on Draft Day, they’re very excited and it’s a dream come true for them, their families, their siblings, and everyone in the encompassing family, including the billet family. So, it was a big day, obviously, for him.”
While he admitted that he didn’t have much of a chance to speak to him on Draft Day, Kompon was instantly impressed with the youngster as soon as they hit the ice together not long afterward.
“From there, I believe, it was development camp and then training camp and the impression was when he got on the ice, things were going to happen,” noted the former Kings’ assistant. “He was efficient in what he did but he was very confident in his decision-making and his ability to move the puck, to skate with the puck, and his abilities. He had the poise of a veteran player coming into the league.”
While his role as assistant coach was more focused on the forwards than the defenseman, Kompon got to work with Doughty on the power play, reflecting on the former Guelph Storm‘s innate ability to take control of the man-advantage.
“He’s a very visual learner in terms of what he’s able to see,” Kompon said. “He reads the game so well. So, just the relationship that he had with [Anze] Kopitar, working on the half-wall and whoever we had on the weak side or the net-front, it was just all about what his options were. You know, at the end of the day, it’s about how quick he can do things, how quick he can get across the line, and it was more of those types of conversations with him. And his options: how he can move the puck a little quicker and get the puck back in a position where he is a threat score from some of those areas.
“People don’t realize that Drew is a very emotional and a very competitive, competitive player. The one thing that I don’t think people realize is how competitive he was coming into the league as a young player. His ability to close the gap, his skating ability, his ability to finish checks. I don’t think players were really expecting that. And the dominance that he had and the ability he had to control the game with how he pushed the pace, how he made the plays, how he got up the ice, how well he defended. The sacrifice, also, just blocking shots, the willingness to do whatever it took. And he was a huge contributor to the two Stanley Cups that [the Kings] won. He had a big impact on the game, on all the playoff games, and just the impact and how we could control the game without having to make an end-to-end rush.”
The Kings’ faith in Doughty, and vice-versa, were rewarded in 2012 when the silver-and-black won their first Stanley Cup in their 44-year history, leaving even the most ardent of fans speechless from shock and awe. Of course, while Jonathan Quick may have been the club’s MVP during the regular season and the league MVP in the playoffs, the Kings gelled as a team, going the distance as a group, and winning Holiest’s prize with Drew Doughty being one of the most integral figures. And, by the way, one of his four goals that postseason was an end-to-end rush — in the Cup Final, no less.
Kompon, who was an integral figure himself in the Kings’ ultimate victory, left to join the Chicago Blackhawks the following season. Yet, despite his departure, Kompon remained familiar with Doughty. In fact, even as opponents in a heated rivalry, Kompon’s respect and admiration for Doughty never wavered. In fact, during each of the clubs’ Western Final series in 2013 and 2014, the Kompon’s familiarity with the blueliner helped the Blackhawks defeat the Kings in the former series before winning the Stanley Cup that spring. In 2014, however, the 55-year-old saw the growth in Doughty’s game that helped the Kings avenge their loss from the previous spring.
“Naturally, there’s going to be a heated rivalry because of the fact that we beat them four games to one to go to the Finals the previous year, and [the Kings] had something to prove,” Kompon reflected. “And taking it to Game 7, when you have a dominant player like Drew, as we did with Duncan Keith — different players but similar in their dominance — you have to know where they are on the ice and you have to make sure that you were aware of who you are playing against. They’re an elite team. They’ve proven themselves to be an elite team by winning the Cup and ’12. So, in ’14, we knew that they were reloaded and they had something to prove. They wanted to prove it just wasn’t a one-and-done, and when you have Drew Doughty as we did with Duncan Keith and playing 30 minutes a night, they’re going to have an impact on the game. They’re more than half the game and they’re out against elite players. So, you have to be on your toes and you have to make sure that you’re checking the right way, that you know where he is on the ice and you know that he’s going to try and step up and swing the momentum of a game within the game. So, he did have a huge impact on the series, but at the same time, there was a little more maturity to his game in terms of knowing how to control that. He knew when to take the risks and when to back off. His game had evolved at that stage.”
Having been part of the Winnipeg Jets coaching staff since 2016, Kompon continues to see Doughty in action a few times a year. Yet, while it’s been years since they were part of the same team, Kompon continues to hold Doughty in high regard. The latter, after all, has two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, a World Cup of Hockey, and a Norris Trophy to his name — all before his 27th birthday. So, regardless if it was as a teammate or as an opponent, Kompon’s respect for Doughty is unquestionable as the current Jets associate could not help but contain his pride when recognizing the all-star defenseman’s most recent milestone.
“1000 games is a very special milestone and for Drew, over the course of his career to play 1000 games at a younger age and get into the league when he did and, remarkably, being pretty healthy, it’s an incredible accomplishment,” Kompon emphasized. “He’s still got a lot of hockey left in him and knowing the competitor that he is, he still has a lot to prove to everyone and to himself. He knows what type of player he is and he just keeps on doing it consistently year after year. I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that he’s got 1,000 games and he’s still one of the elite defensemen in the NHL and you have to always be aware of when he’s on the ice both offensively and defensively. I’m proud of him and I can say that I’m really happy to have the opportunity to coach him and to win a championship with him.”
What if the LA Kings drafted Steven Stamkos instead?
Sure, they would have had themselves a bona fide superstar but considering how things turned out, you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans of the silver-and-black wishing for a 2008 do-over. After all, who the Kings settled with — and this writer uses that term very trenchantly — turned out to be exactly what the franchise needed, making a decision that left their rearview mirror gathering dust.
From the highs of championship success to the lows of carrying underachieving or shorthanded teams, Drew Doughty and the LA Kings have been through thick and thin together. Some may argue that his occasional mistakes on the ice are detrimental to his team when, in reality, it is a testament to the great No. 8’s compete level and his desire to win.
As for Jamie Kompn, his pride in Mr. Doughty is palpable — a sense of pride that was earned through years of helping a long-struggling franchise carve out their seat at the top of the hockey mountain. Yet, while he may be too modest to admit it, Mr. Kompon was a major contributor in not only Drew Doughty’s transition to the NHL but his success there, as well.
He may not be the first player to reach the 1000-game milestone but Drew Doughty’s new plateau is a momentous one nonetheless given just how much he means to the sport of hockey, to the National Hockey League, and, of course, to the LA Kings.
Here’s to 1000 games, Mr. Doughty, and many more.