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On the Bubble: Foo a fascinating find

When Kris Versteeg decided to defect from desolate Edmonton and play for the Calgary Flames instead, he was greeted with fame and fortune from the day he signed his contract. Calgary fans collectively rejoiced when Spencer Foo followed suit, choosing to leave his hometown Oilers and play for the Flames. One of the most sought after college free agents, several teams were in the running to land Foo’s services, and many pundits viewed Calgary as a dark horse in that bidding war.

Nevertheless, with his contract signed and a strong Penticton tournament behind him, Foo is fighting for a spot on the opening night roster.

He brings an interesting skillset to camp, and Brad Treliving had high praise for Foo in a recent interview with Sportsnet:

“He’s got the physical traits, the skill, and he’s competitive as hell. Is he ready now? Is he ready in October? A year from now? I don’t know. But he’s a competitive kid. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

Foo scored 26 goals and 62 points in 38 games for Union College last year, finishing his junior year as a Hobey Baker finalist as one of the best collegiate hockey players. Only four players in history have scored at a higher rate than Foo in the NCAA, and though he doesn’t have the traditional truculence valued by Brian Burke, he possesses a wicked shot and the hockey sense to make up for it.

His first taste of action in a Flames sweater was in Penticton where he played mostly on a line with Mark Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane. The de facto number one line for the team throughout the tournament, Foo was given plenty of opportunity to showcase his offensive prowess, and gave the organization a chance to see where he stacked up relative to the multitude of bubble prospects already in the organization. He did not disappoint. His line was among the tournament’s best, and he contributed offensively with four points over the three games. He looked very comfortable on the wing next to Jankowski, which is a pairing to keep an eye on going forward.

It is no secret that one of the reasons that persuaded Foo to spurn the Oilers and sign with the rival Flames is the organization’s lack of depth on the right side. A right-shot right winger, Foo fills a role that the Flames have sorely lacked since Jiri Hudler in 2015, even further back to Iginla if we included handedness. The list of wingers who spent time with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan is a who’s who of bottom six utility players. Outside of Michael Frolik, the Flames don’t really have a high calibre top six right winger who can complement the number one dynamic duo. Foo clearly saw this hole as an opportunity, and we thank him for it.

However, his ability to perform at the NHL level – or AHL level for that matter – is completely unknown. He is 23 years old, and the highest level that Foo has played in is the NCAA. Right away, there is a strong case for him spending time in Stockton to adapt to the NHL style of play and adjust to the increased speed in the pro ranks. It is rare for college free agents to make an immediate impact in the NHL, as many fans expect Foo to do, so it might be wise to send him down and let him force his way onto the team via a call-up midway through the season. Remember, even Johnny Gaudreau was given a taste of NHL action the year before his rookie season to show him what the game was like at the highest level. Even in his first week as a regular Flame, Gaudreau spent time in the press box, not performing well enough to start on the bench.

Foo looks like a great prospect, but he is still just that: a prospect. It might be a bit ambitious to expect him to slot into the top nine and contribute right away.

On the other hand, he isn’t your normal prospect just coming out of the draft. He is five years older than the most recent draft class, and has excelled at all levels so far. His preseason hasn’t been stellar, but there have definitely been points where he’s shone. There is a strong argument that he would be a perfect complement to Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg on the third line. Bennett would surely benefit from having a young, fast winger on his side instead of Troy Brouwer. If Foo doesn’t fill that spot, the role is most likely going to be taken by one of Brouwer or Curtis Lazar, or another prospect like Emile Poirier or Morgan Klimchuk. Foo has proven that he is at least at their level, if not above, and deserves a look in October.

Playing a top nine role for the Flames would surely aid in his development playing against the best of the best. He wouldn’t be buried on the fourth line, and he would be given skilled linemates and the ice time necessary to utilize his offensive strengths.

Any time you can add to your roster without forfeiting assets is a major win, and the Flames have themselves an intriguing piece with Foo. If he doesn’t snag an NHL job next month, he will surely be near the top of the list for a call-up.

What do you think? Should Foo make the team out of training camp?

Why Foo should make the lineup:

  • Foo immediately fills the Flames’ need for a RW, and he’s right-handed to boot.
  • He finishes plays and can benefit from skating on any line that features the Flames’ playmakers.
  • Imagine how proud Iginla would be if this happened.

Why Foo shouldn’t make the lineup:

  • NCAA experience may not transfer to the NHL level and spending time in Stockton can help with his transition.
  • Dominating in the AHL may be better than a bottom six role in Calgary.
  • His preseason play hasn’t been spectacular.

Previously: Mark Jankowski, Curtis Lazar

  • OKG

    meh. Didn’t have a good NCAA season until age 23, looked overwhelmed by the speed of the game even during young stars. He is Stockton bound. And soon will be passed by Matthew Phillips.. I still like the signing but I’m not especially hyped about it.

    • Waldo

      Agree that he didn’t look great and needs a season in the AHL. But have to disagree with Philips passing him, he struggled far more than Foo in the tourney and really seems to lack the evasive qualities a player of his frame needs, he was getting bullied by prospects…..not even NHLers. Not saying he will never make it. But he has a long way to go

  • Walt Whitman

    Let’s give him a year in Stockton to see how it fares.

    (Admittedly, being familiar with how horrible a city and environment Stockton is, sending anyone there “for a year” sounds like a prison sentence. Can the Flames move their AHL team to another city?)

  • I’m getting tired of all these prospects being considered to be the next great franchise player. It’s nice that these guys are talented. But 2/3 top line jobs are filled. The entire 2nd line is filled. There are 2 expensive contracts with no move clauses that bottleneck any movement for these prospects into the 3rd and 4th lines. I just hope these talented young men are patient enough to wait their turn. Maybe someone can write about what’s gone wrong with our player development and why the Flames management feel the need to stifle player development by signing and trading for other veterans. Cue the Sven Bartschi story…

    • Walt Whitman

      The case and causality is not isolated to the Flames organization, nor the NHL, nor any professional sports entertainment entity, nor sports. It’s a common case in every aspect of life, and you, just as I, have done the same thing. It’s called risk aversion, and it’s a natural human tendency because we, like most animals, are fearful of change.

    • HOCKEY83

      So you would rather the Flames had no experienced roster players so we could play rookies every season. Much better idea than rebuilding a team that can make it to the playoffs.

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      What are you talking about…some other team? Flames fans don’t do it but for years the Oilers fans hyped every draft choice (too many to name) and college free agent (e.g Schultz) S the next God of hockey. The Flames have clearly left 2 forward spots open (not signing Jagr) for players like Jankowski or Foo or whomever to make the team so room is there. Grab some facts before you comment!!

  • Off the wall

    While Foo hasn’t shown well in the preseason it’s not indicative that he won’t do well in the NHL.

    Last night was an aberration for everyone, unless you were pasted on the 4th line. That line was great.

    Foo had 3rd line minutes with Lazar and Cramarrosa. Not ideal for a scorer/playmaker.

    He has the potential, we saw it at the Young Stars tournament.

    Although we’re probably a little shell shocked from our preseason, we shouldn’t automatically say that he’s not ready. Time and familiarity with systems and teammates takes time. We should all know that by know.

    We need to take a step back and stop taking Polaroid pictures of a prospect.

    There is very little room for prospects right now and our expectations are that they should blow the socks off the competition. Get real.

    Even if he starts in the AHL, he should be given the call up if he deserves it. We are hurting on RW and we most assuredly aren’t going to get much better in that area without skill.

    Foo ticks those boxes, be patient…good things come to those who wait.

  • theJason

    “When Kris Versteeg decided to defect from desolate Edmonton and play for the Calgary Flames instead”, LOL. It’s so nice when Edmonton is described accurately. I mean who wants to play in such a desolate town? Why not play for the only city in Western Canada with some Class!

    • wot96

      I fail to understand why we need to bother comparing ourselves to Edmonton at all. Maybe that made sense in the 70s and 80s when the City of Champions sign went up and became what was probably the single largest irritant to everyone living here. I grew up in Calgary and can’t stand Edmonton. But I don’t worry about it or fans of their sport franchises because I am quite comfortable believing I live and work in a better place, regardless of what the sports franchises do or fail to do. Moreover, anyone that permits their personal emotional well being to linked to the success or failure of a sports team and its spoiled, highly paid, mercenaries, needs to rethink their position – it is a recipe for disaster.

      • Bawcos

        Thank you. There are 29 other teams in the league. Why does everyone here (almost) compare the Flames to the Oilers? Two very different teams, almost exact opposites in fact. I, living in ON but a Flames fan all my life have been frustrated with CGY fans with this comparison. So what if McDavid means they’re the better team going in, What can CGY do to win it all? What can they do to improve? (Jagr is not the answer). Your statement is my sentiment, can this team beat 30 teams?

    • Derian Hatcher

      Not going to get into the juvinille argument of my city is better than your city. I’ve been to Calg many times, it’s a nice city close to the mountains. However to answer your question…it would appear that 97 and 29 do not playing in the city of Edmonton as they both signed for the maximum term. Foo signed in Calg for better opportunities – nothing wrong with that.

      BOA – starts Oct 4 – can hardly wait!

      • wot96

        The fact that you won’t is mature – thank you. I expect that you have your own reasons for preferring Edmonton over Calgary – and that’s cool. They are your reasons and your opinion and I see no reason to try and argue with you. I just wish the trolls on both sides would shut it.

    • Peter in Edmonton

      Check out who just signed long term contracts in “desolate” Edmonton…come up for the Stanley Cup parade in June to see what a championship team and first class arena look like…

  • Skylardog

    He was given prime PP time last night, and didn’t just not perform well but was a cause of the problems the PP had. The giveaways, ohhhh the giveaways. After last night he is no longer in the running for a spot this year. And it is not even close. He is not competition for Mangi, Poirier, Dube, or Lomberg. I also think Shink and Klimchuk, are ahead, and in not nearly as good a roles as Foo was given in the last 2 games.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Foo did not rise to the occasion last night but he was not alone. There was very few efforts that were worthy of a tryout. He was not on a great line but He should have been able to make something happen with Lazar. I am concerned about Lazar since he is barely noticeable on the ice. There are lots of players with grit and speed and limited scoring ability that can easily take this spot. Both were given prime PP time and seemed to fight the puck. I wonder if Klimchuk or Poirier were given this special treatment if they would do a better job.

  • Just.Visiting

    I thought Foo looked really interesting in Penticton, but that was expected, of course. I was expecting more than I’ve seen so far. Interesting that he is potentially in a battle with Lazar. I didn’t notice Lazar after he ran into the goaltender. Was it that he was injured or wasn’t noticeable to me?