LOS ANGELES -- The Kings missed out on the first pick in the 2008 NHL draft by the narrowest of margins. They and the Tampa Bay Lightning tied for the fewest points in the league at 71, but the Kings had one more win.
So Tampa had the advantage in the league's weighted draft lottery, ended up with the No. 1 pick, and selected Steve Stamkos. The Kings, picking second, took Drew Doughty.
As the teams met Monday night for the first time since draft day, it's safe to say that based on the early returns, the Kings wouldn't change that sequence of events even if they could.
Stamkos has struggled. A healthy scratch Friday in Anaheim, the 6-foot, 180-pound center's assist Monday against the Kings gave him four goals and 15 points in 41 games.
Doughty, on the other hand, has thrived. The 6-1, 219 defenseman leads NHL rookies in ice time (23 minutes, 57 seconds per game, the only rookie over the 18-minute mark, as well as the highest figure on the KIngs). He's played in every game this season -- a streak that may be in jeopardy after he left Monday's game after a second-period hit by Evgeny Artyukhin. (The initial report is that he suffered a thigh contusion.)
Doughty has regularly seen special-teams action, has three goals and 12 points, and in general is doing a lot more than you'd expect from a 19-year-old playing a position where players are traditionally slower to develop.
"Coming in, I knew I had a chance to make the team," said Doughty. "I knew it was going to be tough, but I did everything I could just to make the spot mine. ... I thought the first couple games I played all right, and as every game's gone on, I think I've just been improving every game."
He never expected to play such a key role.
"I thought I'd be playing maybe 10 or 12 minutes, if that, even," he said. "But now that I'm playing in all situations -- power play, penalty kill and all that -- it's been awesome, and I think the more I play, the better I do. So I think it's been good for me."
Doughty, who developed a friendship with Stamkos through their play on a couple of Canadian age-group national teams and through their media responsibilities with the draft, downplayed the meeting of the two top picks of 2008 -- as did those around him.
"That really doesn't mean too much to me," said Doughty.
Which is as it should be, said coach Terry Murray.
"I hope it's not a measuring stick kind of a situation," said Murray. "He's just a good young player on our team that needs to continue to play his game. ... We're halfway through the year, and I hope because we're playing Tampa Bay with Stamkos on there that he doesn't feel he has anything he has to prove."
The reality is that if Doughty does have anything to prove as a No. 2 pick, he's been proving it since he arrived at training camp in September.
"You look at a player that's young and has those kind of credentials," said Murray, and the first question is "is he going to be physically strong enough to be able to compete against the NHL players, against the men in the game?
"And we saw shortly after, that that ability to play the game was there, that he could compete, that he was so intelligent with his body positioning, when he had forecheck pressure, just to do the right things that veteran players do.
"So he impressed us soon after getting going in the training camp and the exhibition games."
He's impressed a lot of people since.
"Going in, everyone's just wondering if he's going to make the team," said team captain Dustin Brown, "and then he kind of gets settled into his role.
"I don't think, if you asked anybody (at the start if) they thought he'd be playing this much and being involved in every situation, I don't think anybody would have said that.
"But that's just how sometimes it goes and he's proven he's capable of doing it."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle -- winner of the Norris Trophy in 1981 as the NHL's best defenseman -- said the first thing that jumps out is Doughty's "composure with the puck.
"He has a lot of patience with the puck," Carlyle continued. "He doesn't seem to be ever in a panic situation when he has it. He looks people off, he has a good set of hands, and he's got skills. He's got great hockey sense."
Kings defenseman Matt Greene -- who has taken Doughty in as a roommate to help him through the adjustment to life on his own -- is impressed with the rookie's ability to handle a crucial defensive role.
"The biggest thing is he's playing a top, shut-down role," said Greene. "He's out there most of the time against the other team's top players. So he's taking care of his own end first and then he's jumping."
While Doughty shows occasional flashes of notable offensive ability, and Greene thinks he may eventually provide more in that department, he also says it's not something Doughty really needs to add to his game.
"I'd take what his offense is right now," said Greene, "as long as he keeps playing the same sound defense that he is. I think that's what's really special about him.
"He might not be Paul Coffey going end to end all the time, but I think he's a little more like Ray Bourque, where his own end is always taken care of."
Murray understandably blanched a bit at hearing those two Hall of Famers used to describe Doughty, even in passing.
"He's just Drew Doughty," said the coach. "That's what he is. He's going to be his own player.
"He's going to be a real premier player as he gets to his peak years."
When and if that happens, Murray believes Doughty's current teammates will deserve significant credit. In the same way it takes a village to raise a child, it apparently takes a locker room to help a rookie make the transition to the NHL life.
"That's a part of the game sometimes that young guys struggle with, because the veteran guys don't help out," said Murray. "There's always teams that go through that, and sometimes veterans do not want to relinquish any of their authority on the team, their ice time in playing, and that can really push a young guy backwards quickly.
"And this group has been just the opposite. They've encouraged him, patted him on the back, patted him on the pads, (said) good job. And also, away from the rink ... taking him to dinner and helping him settle get settled into the community and making him feel a part of this team."
If that's a team-wide effort, the three key players have probably been Sean O'Donnell on the ice, and Brown and Greene off it.
The veteran O'Donnell, acquired from Anaheim in trade just before the season opener, has been Doughty's on-ice defense partner, and has helped Doughty's development "a great deal," Murray said, "just from the composure side of games, talking with him on the bench, talking with him in practice, and the little subtle things about cutting the ice and reading the angles, reading off each other.
"(And) the physical support. Sean O'Donnell is a great guy, a big body guy that if somebody comes after him ..., O'Donnell goes right to the player right away and sends a message that it's just not something we're going to allow. That from a young player's point of view is very important, to see that team support."
Brown is Doughty's roommate on the road, and has also played something of a mentoring role, said Murray, by virtue of his own experience as an 18-year-old in the NHL.
" I think Brownie's been great in helping him avoid a lot of those little potholes, I guess, along the way," said Murray.
Brown said he emphasizes the importance of being physically responsible to deal with the transition from junior hockey to the NHL, getting the right amount of rest and eating properly.
"He seems to be adapting well," said Brown, "to that transition of playing 80 games -- 80 games that are a lot harder than the 60 games he played in junior, that's for sure; at least, a lot more physically demanding.
"He's playing upward of 25 minutes a night, so that's a lot of ice time. On the road, trying to take care of your body -- that's one thing I think he's done a pretty good job of."
Certainly, it's a message Doughty has picked up.
"When we get out of the rink, we don't want to think too much about hockey," he says. "... (But) it's kind of impossible not to think about it, because you've got to be resting, you've got to be eating healthy, you've got to be getting your proper sleep in."
Because of that desire to get away from the game, Greene and Brown both say they don't talk too much about the game with Doughty when they're at home or in the hotel. But some discussion is inevitable.
"We talk about certain aspects of it, I guess, or certain plays when we're sitting in bed," said Brown. "We both play on the same power play, so we'll bring up certain scenarios on the power play, or a play that happened in the game that I noticed something, or he was asking about, or something he noticed. ...
"It's not, probably, the No. 1 thing that we talk about, but there's definitely some instances when we discuss certain scenarios."
While Doughty has plenty of experienced teammates to offer some tips, he says the best advice he's received to date is pretty simple.
"Derek Armstrong always says, 'Love the game,' " he says. "And a lot of people have told me, even though the year has been going well, make sure you don't get a big head. ...
"So I think it's really important to stay humble and realize that you're really fortunate to be playing in the NHL."
It's something he could be doing for a long time.
"Where is he on the learning curve?" said Murray. "Well, he's made great strides. I think O'Donnell has a lot to do with that, the veteran player that's complemented him, read off of him, is able to communicate to him a lot of the subtleties of the position. And certainly, his own talent has allowed him to show confidence and play the game also, to develop.
"So where is? He's moving along at the right pace, that's for sure."