On Monday night, the top two selections in the NHL’s entry draft match up for the first time as Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lighting continue a five-game road trip at Los Angeles to face Doughty and the Kings.
Last season was a difficult one for both Tampa Bay (12-19-10) and Los Angeles (17-18-6), which finished tied with a league-low 71 points. Each, though, had the chance to earn the top overall selection in the June draft.
Tampa Bay won the lottery and made the highly regarded Stamkos the No. 1 pick, while Los Angeles selected Doughty, a defenseman, second. A month earlier, the Ontario natives guided Canada to victory at the 2008 World Junior Championships.
The pair will also compete together later this month as part of the YoungStars competition for the All-Star festivities in Montreal.
The last time the top two draft selections faced off during the regular season occurred Oct. 22, 2003, when Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury—the first overall selection earlier that year—faced No. 2 Eric Staal of Carolina, according to the Kings’ official Web site.
The two have made little immediate impact on their respective teams heading into this game, with Tampa Bay 12th in the Eastern Conference with 34 points, while Los Angeles is tied for second-to-last in the West with 40.
But while the first-year players are probably aware of the significance of this game, each is likely more concerned with helping his team find success.
“I think we are both really excited to play each other,” said Doughty, who has played all 41 games, totaling three goals and nine assists while compiling a minus-4 player rating. “We don’t really look at it like I went No. 2 and he went No.1 and it was a competition. We are just buddies are trying to get out there and do our best this season.”
While Doughty been held off the scoresheet in seven straight games, Stamkos — a center with four goals and 14 points—is without a point in his last five.
Stamkos was scratched for the first time this season on Friday as part of a conditioning program issued by coach Rick Tocchet, but he is expected back in the lineup to face the Kings.
Without him, though, Ryan Malone scored twice and Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 road victory over Anaheim. The Lightning improved to 2-1-0 on their current swing, despite blowing an early two-goal advantage.
“The guys showed some of the will and the character to win, and that can go a long way for a lot of players when you win games like that,” Tocchet said.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, enters having alternated wins and losses over its last eight contests. After opening a four-game homestand with Thursday’s 4-3 win over Anaheim, the Kings fell 5-1 to New Jersey on Saturday.
Los Angeles allowed a season-high three power-play goals, and opponents have capitalized on eight of 37 man-advantage opportunities over the last seven games. Tampa Bay has converted four of nine power-play chances on its road trip.
“The penalties are an issue,” Kings center Brian Boyle said. “We just have to be more disciplined.”
Tampa Bay is 15-5-1 with two ties in the all-time series, winning the last two.