Editor’s Note: In homage to “Who Wore it Best?” the NHL-produced series featured on both NHL.com and the league’s broadcast partners, JFTC continues its regular feature highlighting the top players to wear each sweater number in Los Angeles Kings’ franchise history. Check back to our first edition for a discussion of the selection process.
The number 8 is the most popular single-digit sweater in Kings history. It has been worn by 25 players, including 19 forwards and six defenseman. The first player to wear no. 8 for the Kings was Bryan Smith, a left wing who appeared in 58 games for the team during the inaugural 1967-68 campaign. The 5-foot-11 left-winger was 27 years old when he made his NHL debut on Opening Night against Philadelphia, assisting on Gord Labossiere’s game-winning goal with just under seven minutes left to play (Brian Kilrea added an open-netter with 16 seconds left to secure the LA victory).
Smith was acquired by the Kings prior to that season when, in need of a minor league affiliate, original team owner Jack Kent Cooke purchased the Springfield AHL franchise from “old-time hockey” legend Eddie Shore, transferring their players to the Kings organization. At the conclusion of the 1967-68 season, the Kings traded Smith to Montreal with Yves Locas in exchange for defenseman Larry Cahan.
Jimmy Peters, whom the Kings subsequently acquired from Detroit that off-season, then assumed the no. 8, appearing in all 76 regular-season games for the Kings the 1968-69 season before switching to no. 18 for the 1969-70 campaign. In December 1970, Peters was traded to minor-league Denver for Ed Hoekstra with the Kings holding right of recall. When he returned to the big club for the 1972-73 season opener, he wore sweater no. 12. Thus Peters wore different sweaters numbers each of the three season openers he suited up for the Kings.
As they say on TV, “Wait, that’s not all!” Peters was sent back to the minors after appearing in 25 games for the club the following season. Upon returning to the Kings for three games during the 1974-75 season (his final three NHL games) he switched back to the no. 8 sweater.
The first defenseman to wear no. 8 for the Kings was Jim Witherspoon, who donned the sweater during the 1972-73 season for both games of his two-game NHL career. Five of the last seven players to wear no. 8 for the Kings have been defenseman, including its current occupant, Drew Doughty, who has worn the sweater since joining the club as a rookie in 2008-09.
Of the 25 total skaters to wear no. 8 for the Kings, 19 were born in Canada, three in the United States, one in Finland (Jere Karahlati), one in Czechoslovakia (Martin Strbak in current-day Slovakia) and one in the United Kingdom (Kevin Brown, who wore the sweater his first year with the club before switching to no. 7). Seven played NCAA hockey before turning professional.
Nearly all career statistical records for Kings players while wearing the number 8 are held by Drew Doughty. Doughty tops the team’s career no. 8 charts in goals (117), assists (385), points (502), penalty minutes (638), plus/minus rating (+43), hits (1623), blocked shots (1191), game-winning goals (27) and average time on ice (26:15). As for single-season leaders, Ross Lonsberry lit the lamp 25 times over the 1970-71 season. In 1984-85, Terry Ruskowski racked up 144 penalty minutes. Doughty, however, still tops the Kings single-season no. 8 charts in assists (39), points (60), plus/minus rating (+24), average time on ice (an astonishing 28:59 per game in 2014-2015) shooting percentage (11.3), blocked shots (144) and hits (180).
Who wore No. 8 best?
Drew Doughty — (2008-present)
Drew Doughty is the first active Kings player to be profiled in JFTC’s “Who Wore it Best?” feature. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defender was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, after completing an outstanding junior career during which he was twice named the OHL’s top offensive defenseman. Kings executive Mark Yanetti recently told the LA Times that Doughty’s selection “was the most important pick the [Kings] franchise has seen.”
Doughty made the jump from juniors directly to the NHL without ever playing in the minors. He appeared in 81 games his rookie season and was named to the 2008-09 NHL All-Rookie team, posting six goals and 27 points while tying for the NHL lead in scoring and assists (21) among rookie defensemen. He finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting that season, awarded annually to the NHL Rookie of the Year.
Doughty scored 16 goals and 59 points his sophomore season, tying for second among all NHL defenseman in goals and third in points. He was named a second-team NHL All-Star that season and became the second-youngest Norris Trophy finalist ever (awarded to the league’s top defenseman), behind only Bobby Orr. Over his career, Doughty has been named a Norris Trophy finalist four times, winning the award in 2016 (joining Rob Blake as the only players in Kings history to do so), as well as a first-team NHL All-Star three times and second-team All-Star twice.
His career average time on ice of 26:15 is nearly four minutes more ice time per game than that of Mathieu Schneider who ranks second on the King’s all-time career average time on ice (TOI) chart. Doughty has ranked among the NHL’s top-four players in average TOI each of the past eight seasons.
Doughty’s best season scoring-wise was 2017-2018, when he tallied a career-high 50 assists on his way to 60 points, which was also a career-high. His +23 that season is his second highest season plus/minus total ever, placing just behind the +24 he registered in 2015-16. In the 2012 playoffs, Doughty tied for the NHL lead with 12 assists and was fifth with 16 points as the Kings raised their first chalice. During the team’s second Stanley Cup run in 2014, he led all NHL defensemen in playoff scoring with 18 points in 26 games.
While the 31-year-old Doughty’s no. 8 is clearly destined to hang from the Staples Center rafters when he hangs up the skates, his current play indicates that occasion is still several years into the future. When the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, he led all Kings defenseman in goals and assists (second team-wide in the latter category). His average TOI of 25:49 was more than four minutes longer than that of runner-up Alec Martinez (who of course had been traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in February). Most tellingly, an NHLPA poll released at the time play was halted ranked Doughty as the NHL’s fourth-best defenseman (Fun fact: That same poll ranks Doughty as the second funniest player in the league).
According to NHL.com, Doughty “boasts perhaps the best all-around game of any defenseman of his era. A strong skater who loves to join the rush, Doughty is known for springing teammates with crisp passes and is an extremely effective shutdown presence against top forwards.” He has worn the “A” as alternate captain since 2015-16. He has been named the team’s “outstanding defenseman” in 10 of the 12 years he has spent with the club.
In 2017-18, Doughty was honored by the Kings Care Foundation with its Jim Fox Community Service award, which is given annually to the Kings player who “best exemplifies strong community outreach by actively working with local youth organizations and community groups to increase awareness and raise funds to support the Kings community signature initiatives — education, health-related causes and recreation.” On July 1, 2018, he agreed to an eight-year, $88 million contract extension with the Kings, which runs through the end of the 2026–27 season.
Agree or disagree with the selection of Drew Doughty as the Kings’ “No. 1 of No. 8s?” Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or hit up Mark on Twitter at @DevoreOnSports. Stay safe, and as always, Go Kings Go!