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.