A closer peek at Spencer Foo

One of the newest Flames (this is a title that is being passed on every day, it seems), Spencer Foo is both earning a lot of hype and a lot of questions.

A relatively unknown dev camp invitee, Foo has risen from irrelevant to minor NHL UFA bonanza. His signature was one of the main prizes of the NCAA free agency series, and his choice has got a lot of people excited, particularly those south of Red Deer.

But still, a lot of questions. No one really knew who Foo was until late in the season, and given that his only appearance before now was a cameo in July, there’s still a few questions remaining that a simple statline cannot answer.

So what type of player are we getting in Foo? What can we expect?

Historical comparables

Foo had a great season, but how does he stack up historically? We always hear about these high scoring college prospects that never amount to much afterwards. How did his comparables do?

Good news and bad news: since 1996-97, there have only been 15 guys in the ECAC who have scored above a 1.50 PPG pace. It’s a rare feat, so applause is deserved for Foo and Vecchione. Those last four players all hit that mark in 96-97, so it’s really 11 guys over 19 years. Quite the achievement.

The bad news is that it makes this exercise kind of meaningless. The sample is taken from a large period but is still small enough to only draw sketchy conclusions. There have only been four players that have scored more than Foo, and three have turned out to play more than 100 NHL games. However, only one of them was 22 (Andy McDonald) during their comparable season. We can also look at the four players who were 22 during their comparable seasons, two of whom turned out to be regular NHLers. That could be a positive, but again, sample size.

CanucksArmy was equally as generous, saying that 40% of Foo’s comparables became effective NHLers, albeit with similar sample size issues. Basically, two out of five.

Growth over his past three seasons

Foo exploding over the past year certainly raised his UFA profile.

The biggest improvement Foo made was in shots per game, where he jumped up by 1.25 S/GP. That’s an extremely positive step forward, and is potentially a reason he took huge jumps in points per game (+0.94) and goals per game (+0.35).

Are there other reasons? Perhaps.

With regards to point ratios, Foo has been relatively steady over his career. He has always been a strong producer of primary points, as we see in the P1/P% ratios. The one red flag is the 5v5 points versus all situations points. Foo nearly took a 20% dip in that category, as his usage on the PP and PK increased. Although the majority of his points last season came from special teams play, we needn’t worry because…

… Foo still had a ridiculous amount of production at 5v5. Sure, part of his gaudy numbers are from special teams, but based on 5v5 production alone, we can still be very optimistic.

Mike Vecchione?

The other Union superstar, Vecchione, has already been a superstar at the college level. Since joining Union in 2013, he’s been a top-notch player for the Dutchmen, and has even rocked the C over the past two years. It was no surprise that Philadelphia picked him up. He’s a steady presence, and is a safe bet to be at least a decent NHLer. Small sample size, but in the two NHL games he played this year, he was a pretty good player by all accounts.

So did Vecchione being good benefit Foo in any way? Probably not.

Foo Category Vecchione
0.68 G/GP 0.76
0.95 A/GP 0.89
1.42 P1/GP 1.11
1.63 P/GP 1.66
3.97 S/GP 3.47
17.20% SH% 22%
0.63 5v5 P1/GP 0.66
0.76 5v5 P/GP 0.82
87.09% P1/P% 66.67%
 82.76% 5v5 P1/P% 80.65%

The more important categories are the primary points (P1) categories. For the most part, their stats are really similar, except Foo is much better with regards to primary points. He scores nearly a third more every game, and was way less reliant on secondary assists to boost his points total. In all situations, Foo had a better primary points to total points ratio by just about 21%, and also beat Vecchione by just over 2% at 5v5. It’s not a new thing either; Foo has been stellar at these categories throughout his career. In 2014-15, he was at 80%  for P1/P, and 93.33% at 5v5. The next season, he was at 92% and 100%, respectively.

Breaking it down a bit more and looking at individual contributions to the other’s goals, we can see just how much of an impact Foo made on Vecchione’s game. Of the 28 Vecchione goals it was possible to get an assist on this past season (one penalty shot), Foo had 11 assists (39.28%), nine of them being primary (32.14%). Conversely, on the 26 Foo goals, Vecchione did have 15 assists (57.69%), but only six were primary contributions (23.07%). Simply put, Foo was a more important driver of Vecchione’s scoring than Vecchione to Foo.

More positives include Foo being the more eager shooter, ripping off 0.5 more per game. He was also less reliant on an inflated shooting percentage than Vecchione (to be fair, Vecchione shot 8% the previous year, so it was likely his luck balancing out).

Both players are good, don’t get me wrong – you don’t rank first and second in conference scoring by accident – but the evidence points towards Foo being the all around more impactful player. He’s always been a strong producer of primary points, and the fact that he was almost equally as good, arguably better, than Vecchione is nothing but good news. Especially considering he’s the younger guy.

The future

Given that there’s so little room on the Flames’ roster already, it would be reasonable to expect Foo to start next season in the AHL. With absolutely no idea how he will translate to the NHL, Stockton seems like a safe bet.

Perhaps he can be a surprise, but he’s really going to have to wow the team. There’s quite a line of players with prior pro experience on expiring contracts that are probably going to be fighting to remain relevant in the org, not to mention that the team is pretty much already set for forwards (albeit, with a spot open in the position he plays). But he should definitely be a leader on the farm. He’s a pretty exciting player.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Nearly zero risk, and potentially high reward. Great pick up regardless of the result. The results detailed in this article are good reason for optimism.

  • Baalzamon

    The interesting thing about Vecchione is he only scored impressive totals when one of his team mates did the same. He had 50 points in 2014/15, when Daniel Ciampini did the same. The following year, when Ciampini left, Vecchione plummeted to 29 points (though that was with the extremely low shot% as noted above). Last year, of course, he shot back up to 63 when Foo had his very similar 62.

  • The GREAT WW

    Good stuff Christian!
    Great to have this kid on board!
    So why did Foo choose Calgary?
    Familiarity from last year?
    Wants to win the cup!!
    (Oiler fans will want us to believe it’s because the Flames have nothing on the right side, I would say the Oilers don’t have a top line RW either…)

    Just curious why you think he chose Calgary…


      • Jumping Jack Flash

        These are definately some primary reasons, dumping our draft picks over the next couple years is a no brainer and likely jumped us to the head of the class. I have to think Calgary has provided him a platform to make the team quicker than the others. I heard that Detroit offered him a roster spot but I somehow doubt it.

    • Puckhead

      Chia seems to be having problems rounding out his roster. I think the assumption being made in Edmonton was that elite players would be lining up to play there. They have $ to spend this year. Strange, don’t you think? Maybe they can’t dole out good contracts with term? Maybe it’s Chia?

      • I think a high pressure environment from management seems to be the biggest deterrent for prospective players. Even the more useful, helpful, and long tenured players (Hall, Eberle) are shipped out for pennies on the dollar because of minor slights, whether perceived or real. If you’re a guy whose NHL chances aren’t necessarily set in stone, you wouldn’t want to go to a franchise that has shown the tendency to boot people out immediately for not living up to lofty goals.

      • Newbietwo

        The problem you have with Edmonton is that all players now know that McDavid and Drai will take 32 percent off the cap space for them there.. So players know one of two things

        1. If they perform well there they won’t be able to stick around unless they take a discount

        2. If players perform well there they are bound to have to move or be traded because of the cap issues that would exist it would be a revolving door year over year.. hasn’t happened yet but just wait

        After next year you have the likes of Talbot, Nurse and Maroon needing new contracts after this coming season including Benning they have 8 RFAs.. that’s just ridiculous.. I hope Maroon scores again this year because he won’t be able to fit in the cap as right now he only makes $1.5 million lol I mean seriously long terms this team has some major issues..

        Say Benning takes $2.5 million, Maroon $3.5 million, Nurse $2.5 million, Drai $8 million, McDavid $13 million and I’m being conservative here that’s $30 million more than current and they would still have Talbot and 5 RFAs to sign..

          • Puckhead

            We are not arguing that the Oilers are a good team with some great players. As fate would have it they ended up with two great players and the salary cap has levelled the playing field in that regard. The organization also had to clean house, no question there. We’re just discussing some questions that some Oiler fans seem to be bringing up lately as well.

  • Southboy

    Well as Foo stated himself he chose Calgary because he felt he had a chance to play.

    Glad he did, but i just hope we dont get to overexcited about a college signing, mostly because he chose us over the Coilers. Either way depth is good

  • Puckhead

    If they put Janko in Stockton we can expect the same treatment for Foo. Hopefully he keeps improving and will be ready to push for a spot in the next couple seasons.

    Foo was an exciting addition and I’m thrilled that he chose the Flames.

  • freethe flames

    Next week the real evaluation begins for Mr Foo. It will be interesting to see how he stacks up against say ET. Good luck to him. I suspect he starts in Stockton but as I have said quite often it is really up to him and all the other forwards to push their way onto this team. Even though the veterans like Brouwer and Stajan are ahead of them that does not mean the can’t force the issue.

    • Baalzamon

      Foo and Tool are not in any way in competition with each other. Tuulola is going back to Europe, and even if he wasn’t he’d be going back to the WHL. Foo will be either in the AHL or NHL. The only players he’ll be “stacking up” against will be guys like Poirier and Mangiapane (and then Shinkaruk, Lazar, and Klimchuk later on).

  • Southboy

    There were also reports that part of the deal with him signing was a gaurantee certain amount of NHL games this year (15-20) range, nothing confirmed, but that would aslo help sway a guy to sign

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    There have been some good players to come into the NHL after dominating in the ECAC….Joe Niewendyk comes to mind. It is time for another. I must admit when I first watched Foo’s highlight reel I was more impressed with Vechionne, but the I watched Vechionne’s highlights and Foo stood out…I guess that is what happens when you have two elite college players with chemistry.

  • DoubleDIon

    The ECAC isn’t the weak conference it used to be. The last 5 years it has been on par or ahead of the best conferences in the NCAA. People who compare it to the ECAC of the mid 90’s are way behind the times. My best friend played at BC 15 year ago and the ECAC was a weak conference then. Not so today.

  • OYYC

    Unfortunately the Flames may have missed the boat trading with Vegas now that VGK have taken on Kruger – an older forward with term left. How management handles the “The Brouwer Situation” should be a pressing issue if they want guys like Foo to make the roster sooner than later.

    • everton fc

      The Canes’ have cap room. So do the Coyotes…

      Get on the phone, BT!! Make it happen!!!

      (We’ll all be eating more than “crow” if we’re “stuck” w/Brouwer, and he pops 20 goals for us next season. Here’s hoping I’m eating crow, or even raven, by season’s end)

      • OYYC

        Brouwer is a dud. Only ego and denial on the part of management after signing him is why he’s still around. The Flames should give up something pretty significant as well for someone to take his contract.

        Wherever he plays he drags his linemates down. The Flames don’t need another body for the roster in return. They need his roster spot and the cap hit back. The Flames signed a bad contract, they just have to face reality and get out of it with minimal damage.

  • everton fc

    I can’t see a roster spot for Foo unless Jankowski is sent back to the “A”, and the 4th line is Stajan/Lazar/Brouwer. Or, if thy move Brouwer. And I think if they do move Brouwer, Lazar gets those 3rd line minutes on RW. Then, maybe, you have a 4th line of ??/Stajan/Foo – the LW could be one of Shinkaruk/Freddie/Klimchuk/Lomberg.

    But at 23, Foo should have been a high producer. We’ll see how he looks at the Prospects Camp. He’ll be one of the older guys. He should easily excel, if he’s “for real”.

    • OYYC

      In many ways Lazar is the wildcard in all this. It depends on how high the team is on him. He shakes out in a couple of years as the 4C who can move up the lineup. He’ll be behind Monahan – Backlund – Bennett/Jankowski. I still see Jankowski as the 3C with Bennett on the wing in the longer term.

      But I think Lazar should be given a shot at 3RW this year, the team really still does not know what they have in him. They won’t have any clearer indication either if he gets limited minutes playing with Stajan and *gulp* Brouwer, and that will do squat for Lazar’s development.

      Tkachuk – Bennett – Lazar works in many ways…with Jankowski getting an apprenticeship with the 2 Mikes / and Ferland on the top line.

      The 4th line is Versteeg – Stajan – Brouwer … with Versteeg still getting PP time, and Brouwer not. Lazar takes Stajan’s spot in a couple of years, and Versteeg moves up to wing.

      Of course that is all without an injury in sight, and we’re playing mix-and-match linemates on paper one and two years down the road.

      • Puckhead

        GG likes to play his strongest players in groups of two. As such, the question is who will get partnered with Bennett? Most likely to be a younger guy who they expect to be here for the long haul. Most likely guess would be Tkachuk but could also be Ferland or maybe Lazar? I still think having Tkachuk on the 3rd line is a waste of talent, but if he and Bennett click maybe they get paired.

    • Baalzamon

      Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see Lazar outplaying Shinkaruk, Jankowski, or Foo in training camp. Unless the Flames sign someone else, I think Foo starts the season on Bennett’s RW.

      • Puckhead

        The only way Foo starts is if it was part of the deal to entice him to come here. If you look at his comparables it’s not like he’s got stellar company. It’s a big jump to the NHL from where he has been playing.