2017 NHL Draft: Foote forges own path using wealth of resources
Cal Foote has no shortage of resources to draw from.
Heading into the 2017 NHL Draft, the 18-year-old product of Engelwood, Col., and defenceman for the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets has established himself as a top-tier prospect and he’s had plenty of valuable experience helping him along the way.
As the son of two-time Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic gold medal-winning defenceman Adam Foote, Cal was born with perhaps the greatest library of resources when it comes to preparing for life as both a junior and professional hockey player.
“He’s been awesome to my brother (younger sibling Nolan) and I about development and coaching,” Foote said of his father over the phone ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Adam, who won a 1991 Ontario Hockey League Championship as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, spent four years coaching his two sons, Cal and Nolan.
“It was pretty special to have him on the bench with us,” Foote said. “We moved up to Kelowna and he’s there to talk all the time, he’s there to help us out and try to make us better. We use that as an advantage. It’s pretty special having a guy like that close to us.”
While the NHL bloodline serves as a distinctive leg up for Cal, his father isn’t the only quality resource at his disposal as he prepares for the 2017 NHL Draft, slated for June 23 to 24 in Chicago, Illinois.
After former Rockets head coach Brad Ralph departed the organization at the conclusion of the 2015-16 campaign, Jason Smith – a veteran defenceman of 15 NHL seasons and former Regina Pat – took over the bench in the sunny Okanagan, providing another fountain of knowledge for the young blueliner to learn from.
“You look at what [Smith] has done in his career, it’s pretty special to look at,” Foote said. “He brought that to our team, he brought the experience and he brought that [NHL] knowledge to our team. He did a great job coming into Kelowna.”
Under the tutelage of Smith, Foote excelled in his sophomore season in the WHL. After registering 36 points (8G-28A) in 71 games during his rookie year, the hulking 6-foot-4, 210-pound rearguard racked up 57 points (6G-51A) in 71 games during the 2016-17 campaign, leading all Rockets’ defencemen in scoring. His plus-39 rating ranked ninth across the entire WHL and fifth among WHL defenders. It’s that dependable ability at both ends of the rink that has set Foote up to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was drafted 22nd overall in the second round of the 1989 NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques. Heading into the 2017 NHL Draft, Foote is ranked 12th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and a prime target to have his named called in the first round Friday night in Chicago.
“It’s pretty special,” Foote said. “I’d like to go as high as possible. The ranking is there, I’m not going to lie – you see them. For me, especially during the season, I try not to pay any attention to them at all. In-season I was more focused on the Rockets, but you do see them. It’s pretty exciting times.”
With the pro-sized frame and steady approach at both ends of the rink, Foote provides plenty of assets for NHL clubs to drool over. And that NHL family pedigree certainly doesn’t hurt his cause either.
“I’m a two-way defenceman, I move the puck out of my end to my forwards,” Foote said. “I like to pass first. In the offensive zone, I like to shoot the puck. I take pride in my defensive play and always having good positioning.
“I want to work on my quick feet and acceleration – a lot of things in that category, like agility and stuff. If I can improve that, it will help me make the next big step. Right now, my main focus is on that and just getting stronger.”
Though he may have been shaped from the same sort of mould as his father, Cal Foote is eagerly awaiting his opportunity to forge his own path and create his own legacy as a reliable NHL defenceman. He will take the first step in that direction Friday night when he hears his named called, more than likely, in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
“It takes a lot of hard work, that’s for sure,” Foote said. “Ever since I was playing youth hockey for the Colorado Thunderbirds, it took a lot of work then and when I moved to Kelowna, it took a lot of work in those past two years. You just try to develop and try to learn as much as possible.
“To be honest with you, it hasn’t really struck me yet that [the NHL Draft] is actually [Friday night]. Time flies, so it will hit me when I’m there. I’m just excited to be there and to hopefully hear my name called.”
Foote plans on sharing his NHL Draft experience with his brother, mother and father, along with extended family from both sides of his tree.
Cal Foote – Defenceman
Weight: 210 pounds
Hometown: Engelwood, Col.
Acquired: Round 2, 43rd overall – 2013 WHL Bantam Draft
2016-17: 71 GP, 6G-51A – 71 points
2015-16: 71 GP, 8G-28A – 36 points
The 2017 NHL Draft takes place June 23 to 24 in Chicago, Illinois, with coverage provided by Sportsnet beginning at 4:30 p.m. MT.