Kings vs. Devils: Drew Doughty Earning His Massive Contract in the NHL Playoffs

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IMay 29, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 22:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on before taking on the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on May 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When defenseman Drew Doughty signed his eight-year, $56 million contract in September, many Los Angeles Kings fans weren't sure if the young star could live up to the big, new deal.

On the eve of the 2012 Stanley Cup final, we can say that Doughty has proved why the team was willing to make an expensive, long-term commitment to him.

Doughty is tied for fourth in points on the Kings during the playoffs, with two goals and eight assists. His plus-minus rating of 10 is tied for third-best among all players during the postseason.

Doughty has made the most of his ice time by playing great defense in front of star goaltender Jonathan Quick. His performance in his own zone and the success Quick is enjoying has given the Kings a tremendous level of confidence heading into the Cup final.

Doughty's impressive two-way game is so important to the team's success, and in the Stanley Cup final against the New Jersey Devils, he will have to play well for the Kings to win their first championship in franchise history.

His time on the penalty kill will be crucial to his team's ability to win games against the Devils' strong forward group.

The Devils have several elite forwards, such as Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, who are capable of changing the course of a game with just a few strong shifts.

Doughty will have to make sure he prevents them from making a profound impact on offense, and there's no reason to believe that he won't be able to frustrate the New Jersey duo.

When Doughty came into the NHL as the second overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft, the expectations put on his shoulders to become an elite player were immense from the start.

After his development appeared to regress last year, Doughty made a strong effort to play like a true No. 1 defenseman on a consistent basis this season.

To his credit, Doughty has lived up to his new contract in its first year, proving that the future is very bright for the Kings' defenseman.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup final in Boston.