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Photo Credit: Jack Lima

FlamesNation prospect wrap-up: Spencer Foo

Hey, did you know that the Flames have problems on the right wing? They’ve tried solving it time and time again under the Brad Treliving regime, but they still have not found a long-term solution. Unless they’re busy inventing a time travel machine to bring young Jarome Iginla to 2018, they’re probably not going to find a long-term solution for a while or for cheap.

Part of the reason is because that’s just the reality of the RW position. Right shooters are less prevalent than lefty shooters (557 left shooters versus 333 right shooters in the league this season) and accordingly come at a premium price. If the Flames are going to target a premier righty, they’re going to have to pony up.

And the Flames don’t like doing that (or just can’t, having ponied up for other things), so they’d probably rather solve the problem for free. The Flames’ attempt at doing that last year came in the form of Spencer Foo, one of Stockton’s better forwards last year. Despite an okay productive year in the minors, he may be one of the Flames’ better right-shooting forwards heading forward. That’s not really a compliment as much as it is a statement on the sorriness of the position.

Background

Like many NCAA free agents, Foo comes from humble junior hockey roots. A strong player for the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the AJHL, he earned a spot on Union College’s hockey team at age 20. His first year saw him pick up a modest 25 points in 39 games, which was good enough to get on the ECAC all rookie team. He had similar production in his sophomore season, picking up 25 in 36.

Foo exploded in his junior year, picking up 62 points in 38 games. His offensive motor and unrelenting need to drive to the net excited scouts, and a bidding war for his services started. In the end, the Flames won out over other potential suitors, mostly thanks to having zero depth on the right side. Foo could fill a need, which was pretty much the entire sales pitch.

2017-18 story

Foo had a rough start to his AHL career, going pointless in his first four games. He did eventually find his footing, putting up five in the next five games, but just as quickly stumbled again, going on a seven-game point drought. Foo was shooting the puck quite often, but just couldn’t seem to put it in the back of the net. He only had one goal through his first 19 games of the year despite leading the team in shots throughout.

After that, he was dynamite. Over the course of the rest of the season, he put up 34 points in 46 games (50 points over the course of a whole 68-game season), becoming an important part of the Stockton offence. Foo established himself as one of the key parts of the Stockton offence, an efficient points generator in all scenarios.

Foo finished the season in fantastic style. With not much left to play for, the Flames recalled Foo and gave him a spin on the top line. He scored two goals in four games, looking pretty comfortable on the (1/3 intact) top line of Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett. He then picked up two assists in three games as Stockton tried to save their postseason aspirations.

The numbers

GP G A P Primary points 5v5 Points 5v5 Primary points NHLe
AHL 62 20 19 39 31 15 11 24.24
NHL 4 2 0 2 2 2 2 n/a

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Foo’s early season struggles are quite clear on the chart, but his mad dash to meet his previous year’s production is also quite clear. The kid got better week after week, but his production pales to his college self. Understandable, as there’s a major difference between the two leagues. A 22-year-old ripping up the ECAC (worst NCAA conference) isn’t going to have the same level of success in the AHL.

When you break down Foo’s numbers, you find some worrying stuff. Low volume aside, his point totals are evenly split between 5v5 and the PP, which is concerning. AHLers who can rip up a powerplay are a dime a dozen and their skills usually don’t translate to the NHL at all. Even strength scoring remains king when trying to project player performance. Slow start aside, 15 5v5 points in 62 games is a pretty discouraging number. There’s nothing wrong with being a strong special teamer, especially in the bottom six, but if he can’t bring a well rounded game with him to the NHL his days are numbered before they even begin.

Foo’s talent does lie in primary point generation; it was one of the reasons he was a very strong player in college. He only picked up eight secondary assists all year, which is great. His goal scoring ability is partially thanks to his puck shooting ability. Foo ripped off 161 shots this year, first on the Heat in that category. His shooting percentage, which was hovering around 3% during the worst of his scoring drought, finished at a respectable 12.42%. If he had regular shooting luck all year, perhaps he could be closer to 50 points.

Comparables

Methodology explained here. Foo’s full data can be found here.

Foo’s numbers don’t hold up well. Only 6% of similar all situations players landed in the NHL full time, scoring at a 0.35 PPG mark. That’s extremely low for the AHL. His 5v5 numbers are slightly better in terms of success (12.77%) but significantly worse in terms of points generation (0.14 PPG).

Which is an unfortunately honest summary of Foo’s season. He’s an older prospect at age 23 and didn’t have a great year until a quarter of the season was gone. His 5v5 production was so poor that he only has strong comparables with hired goons (Ryan Reaves, Tanner Glass, and Michael Haley had similar 5v5 production). If you can’t score in volume in the AHL as a 23-year-old, you’re unlikely to go much further than that. Again, bad luck perhaps had something to do with his numbers, but it’s all we have to go on.

Foo mostly compares well with AHL tweeners and fourth line guys, which makes sense. If he pans out, he’s unlikely to be much more than a depth winger, which is something that was quite clear when he was signed. He sure looked like a top sixer in the NCAA, but that was a pipe dream. Realistically, he wasn’t going to be much more than a 3RW with high upside. The Flames still need that.

The future

Foo might just get a spot out of camp just because of the Flames’ complete lack of talent on that side. That’s kind of the reason he was signed in the first place.

The third line has been looking for an actual RW for a while now, and Foo seems to be a stylistic match for his potential future linemates. He’s offence first, likes shooting the puck a lot, and goes to the net hard. Perhaps a bit of a defensive liability, but the scoring potential put together could overwhelm that. There’s the likely risk he isn’t much more than the other RWs on this roster, and his AHL production backs that up, but the tools Foo has just offers you much more than what others on the roster can. It can’t hurt to play him in a bottom six role and see if you can get something going. I don’t think he’ll have a serious breakthrough and become a top six forward, but if Micheal Ferland could do it in his mid-20s, why not.

On the flip side, if he returns to Stockton, that could probably be very bad news. He’s turning 24 very soon and is running out of real estate to actually establish himself as an NHLer. The Heat will take in Matthew Phillips this season, who is certainly battling for that top RW spot (if not an actual NHL spot) and has a better pedigree than Foo at a younger age. If you’re the second RW in the minors at age 24, your chances at the NHL are likely nonexistent.

As unfair as it might be, his training camp will likely be the judge of which path he goes down. If he isn’t good enough to stick in Calgary, he’s likely going to get passed over by younger prospects in the AHL. If he does make the NHL, he’s probably going to have a very short leash if there’s someone else blowing the doors down in the AHL. That’s the reality of being a latecomer to pro hockey, unfortunately.

Previously

Rasmus Andersson | Tyler Wotherspoon | Oliver Kylington | Josh Healey & Adam Ollas Mattsson | Mitchell Mattson | Hunter Smith | Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov

  • MDG1600

    Not liking those 5 on 5 stats. Sounds like we can add Foo to the Shinkarauk/Klimchuk/Poirer/Pribyl/Wolf/Jagr list of failed attempts by management to address the lack of scoring from the forwards. And we have no draft choices this year because, hey, we needed another defenceman even though we had several good D prospects. BT has really painted the organization in to a corner on this one and he needs to find a viable solution before I am ready to remove his goathorns.

    • Cfan in Van

      Can you explain what we had to lose by giving Spencer Foo a go? I can’t see how this particular move has set us back. Why not try to address a need through means that are basically free? It’s not like he stole a meaningful roster spot from anyone.

      • MDG1600

        I never said it was a bad idea or not worth a try – just that it doesn’t look like Foo is going to be a solution. Do you think BT has done a good job addressing the problem?

        • Cfan in Van

          I can honestly say I’m glad he’s been exploring low-risk options such as Foo/Pribyl/Wolf/Jagr. I may not be satisfied with the current state of the team, but I can also say that I can understand the path Tre has followed, based on the previous successes and progression he’s seen. The third point, is it’s pointless to keep dwelling on the obvious, such as the fact we have no draft picks.
          At the time of the Stone acquisition, he D prospects you speak of couldn’t fill the holes that the he was brought in to address, so that too is an understandable move. None of these “understandable moves” are ideal because the team cratered this season, but it doesn’t mean Tre deserves goat horns for those moves in my opinion.

          • Cfan in Van

            Additionally, instead of “Tre hasn’t addressed A or B”, it’s much more constructive to say “Tre should have acquired X or Y player, for the salary that Stone is making”. Or “Tre should have traded X or Y player for this need, because that value is somewhat equal, and that GM would be likely to make that move.”
            A lot of people are really quick to criticize, and that’s fair enough, but it’s not constructive unless you actually weight the options that the GM had to work with.

          • Al Rain

            “Constructive.” Tee hee.

            You know we’re just entertaining/rubbing ourselves here, right? And that there’s literally zero chance that anything that we ever say here will ever cross a decision maker’s desk. And even then, there’s literally zero chance that the idea hasn’t been thought of in far greater detail and much sooner by hockey people who are smarter and more dialed in than we will ever be. You know all that right?

            So, unless you’re really Blake Wheeler demanding a trade or a scout in the Flames org, you’re being just as “constructive” as me, MDG1600, Christian Tiberi or the good folk who run this site. Which is to say literally zero.

          • Cfan in Van

            Al, I get where you’re coming from. For me, I like to browse through people’s ideas to get an idea of where the club should go, what moves should be made to improve. Creating a big black cloud by dwelling on how things didn’t turn out is a pretty pointless thought process for the person commenting, as well as those reading it. At the very least, one could offer a perspective that considers two sides to the story, or alternate options that could have been explored. Again, just my opinion.

    • aye

      Don’t think Wolf was ever brought in to score goals, everyone knew he was bottom-6 winger at best. Jagr was always a stop-gap and not a solution, too bad he never really got in shape or up to speed. Pribyl basically spent the last 2 seasons on IR, so no one really knows what he is. I don’t think anyone was realistically expecting Klimchuk to be a scorer, he was always a responsible middle-6 option like Frolik. The only real busts here are Shinkaruk and Poirier, and it’s not like Granlund would’ve helped the team’s scoring woes. Foo’s linemate Vecchione, who was more sought after, didn’t do much better last year, and is already 25 and even less likely to make it. So don’t be too hard on management just for that, at least they are trying. And when you look around the league, how many teams don’t have scoring problem? 2/3 of the league are in the same boat, just the reality of salary cap.

      • MDG1600

        Hey, I am sour about giving up a bunch of draft choices for a defenceman we didn’t even need. We had lots of good prospect depth on defence. BT should have made the blockbuster trade for a top 6 forward and not done the Hamonic deal.

        • Slowmo

          I think we still can who’s to say they can’t trade away stone he is a good D and can recoup all his picks and then some just because the Flames nose dived doesn’t diminish Stones or Hams returns on the trade market. We could recoup all those picks at least I think we can the powers that be out there in the NHL scouting and decision making know exactly what there getting with these players and of course there going to try and down play the abilies of each of these players but at the end of the day if BT really wanted to he can grab a bunch of prospects.

  • Off the wall

    I like Foo. I know stats are just that, but he likes to shoot and he certainly didn’t look at of place when he got his cup of coffee.
    I know, small sample. I still believe he makes the team.

    With Foo, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips and Dube you’d hope that at least that one or more of these RW’s can fill a position on the Flames this season.

    Gawd knows we could use them!

    • Squishin

      I agree, OTW. I also like that he’s not afraid to throw a check or get into the tough areas in the O-zone.
      Foo should get a real look at the NHL next year, on the third line with similar-level linemates, before they decide what he is. You can’t judge him accurately from the AHL stats, nor can you judge him accurately from his NHL experience last year, since he was playing with Johnny all the time.

  • cjc

    It’s too easy to get excited about an impressive stretch in meaningless games at the end of the season (hello Curtis Lazar!). Still, I like the fact that Foo shoots the puck a lot, it implies that his possession game is pretty good and that meshes with the style the team wants to play. Even if he ends up on the fourth line, that could be useful. They are used for energy and it sounds like Foo has that at least going for him. If he doesn’t pan out, no harm done.

  • buts

    The key is to give the prospects an opportunity to succeed and by putting Foo with SM and JG plus some PP time…. Foo was able to show that he has promise. Unfortunately GG went and put the leading scorer in the AHL (Mange) on the 4th line and I hope he didn’t ruin him. GG didn’t know how to use players (no surprise)…..heck he had Chiasson on the first line last year…..this year the caps have him as a fourth liner and sometimes scratch.

  • herringchoker

    Round and round we go…..where this roster ends up no body knows.

    If I put myself in Tre’s head, I see no way where a defenceman isn’t leaving this team one way or another to make room for Anderson. Who he trades may say alot for what happened in the locker room if its surprising. What he does with that move though will be big surprise I think. Like it or not he may see Ferland’s end of season slump as concerning but, maybe Tre looks at the year to year progression and determines Ferland is likely going to continue to improve and take his chances. I believe he has 50pts and 25+ goal potential on the top line. If he feels this way he may make a play for Tkuchuks brother instead. Foo’s best chances this year is to kick Hathaway to the 4th line permanently. In order for him to do that though, his offseason training will need to be on point. He needs to add some weight. Mangiapane has the same issue. Someway Tre has got to get these guys big league experience to progress otherwise your just making more Poirier like busts. We absolutely need to move on from the Hathaways and the Brouwers.

    We as fans all want to see a forward change today. I personally want Bennett and Janko to get a RW that can add to their game. I see so much potential in those two as a pair. When Bennett is on, he is dominent. I think Foo if he adds some size and strength could be that guy. He shoots alot and adds speed. That could be deadly.

    • Korcan

      “When Bennett is on, he is dominent.” So far in his professional career that has been Bennett’s #1 problem — he has only been on in about 20 games per season. Everyone sees the potential, but he needs to figure out how to “be on” on a consistent basis. If he can get over that hurdle, many of Calgary’s offensive problems will resolve themselves. It must be so frustrating for GMs when they put together a line-up, slotting players in to positions where they believe they can best fit and contribute, then said player does not perform to expectations. It messes with the whole line-up. Last year the entire management and coaching staff picked Bennett to be their breakout player, then it didn’t happen. Hopefully this season will prove to be what everyone hoped last season would.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Bennett is done. He just is. He’s never been anything but a streaky player. He’s never been consistent. He doesn’t have the Hockey IQ and his failure to put up points is one of the key reasons why we’re having this conversation about adding offensive production in the forward ranks. Two coaches, different linemates, center, wing, it doesn’t matter, Sam fails.

      When do we accept the fact that Sam is a bust?

      • Cfan in Van

        “Two different coaches… Sam fails”. I’d consider his 18G/18A under Hartley was pretty decent for a rookie. Whether he’s a cheap depth guy or lives up to his potential, I think he deserves another season or so until we can actually peg him as one or the other. “Bennett is done” is just a dumb thing to say. I’m sure he’ll continue playing hockey in this league, whatever he ends up being.

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          @Cfan

          “Pretty decent” for one year isn’t enough. We need production, real production. Even if you’re right about Sam panning out-which you aren’t-do you think this team can sit around for another season on the CHANCE that Sam might finally put up decent numbers?

          No. We don’t have time for patience anymore. If you don’t produce you don’t play.

          Package him and send him off for an ACTUAL NHL forward.

          • Cfan in Van

            You didn’t get my point at all. I didn’t say he will live up to expectations. I said he may, and even if he doesn’t, he’ll be a cheap quality depth player on this team or another. The draft pick is a long-gone sunken cost but he’ll provide value one way or another. If you think he has much trade value, great, but I kinda doubt it, so might as well use him in whatever role he’s able to shape into. He IS an NHL forward already, just maybe not worthy of a top 5 pick. I never said he was the savior to our offensive problem, but we also aren’t paying him to be.
            My point about the coach was that you’re wrong saying he failed under Hartley, so might as well see if he can push the envelope he’s currently in, under another coach that isn’t Gully (the only coach he’s faltered under).

    • rusty_shakleforde

      I really agree re Ferland. I really like him, and can we all just stop to think about how his season would have panned out if he played it all the way? I know I’m playing the “what-if” game here, but I definitely see more from him.

      What’s more, a move like putting Ferland on the top line is precisely how you push players to be the best they can. Confidence, pressure, responsibility. In this vein, maybe we try Bennett on the top line for more than a few games at a time– if he makes it, great. Likely to be a boost to him and maybe even get him out of his funk. If not, then at least we know. It goes along with the absurdity of putting Mangiapane on the fourth line. Go big or go home. It’s time for some boldness, Calgary Flames.

  • herringchoker

    I think if the flames add…..maybe that involves a Frolik trade. Frolik is prone to an off season now and again. He tends to rebound though. Maybe thats where the flames need to add a young guy like a Reinhart from Buffalo or a Lindholm from Carolina. Somebody who could benefit from a solid vet like Backlund and a beefcake like Tkuchuk with sky high hockey IQ. Another move the flames absolutely need to do but, I don’t think will totally happen. They need to clear out the 4th line wingers. Get rid of Hathaway….somehow get rid of Brouwer….keep Shore and Lazar and rotate in young guys. If Lazar and Shore get pushed out then so be it. They are cheap enough that who cares.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      With Kane signing for what appears to be $7M a pop, how does that impact your beefcake’s impending new contract? Might be argued that Chuck even at 20 is a better overall player than Kane is. Certainly, Chuck is a great deal more mature and media savvy than Kane. I have to think Chuck’s new contract begins at least with 7.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Never! Do you truly believe that Laine and Matthews are that much better than Chuck because I do not? Yes, their offensive prowess is far greater than Chuck’s but he plays a more complete game than they do. If both of those guys are good for $10M a year, offering Chuck less than $7M would be insulting and he would very wisely reject it on the spot.

          Regarding Johnny, he does not have the coveted leadership skills that Chuck possesses.

          Whether Chuck loves being here or not, he realizes pro hockey is a business and no way will Chuck undervalue himself. Why would he?

      • Korcan

        Ugh, I don’t even want to think about it. Hopefully everyone involved will recognize Kane was a FA and everyone overpays with free agents for fear of losing them to another team. Guaranteed, Tre is going to try and convince Tkachuk to take a long term deal within the team’s internal cap, but I’m not sure that will fly. Here’s hoping…

      • FL🔥MES

        This is a no brainer….

        JG 80GP and 84pts (1.05 pts/game)
        SM 74 GP and 64pts (0.86 pts/game)
        MT 68 GP and 49pts. (0.72 pts/game)

        It’s called redneck mathematics.

    • Honkydonk

      TBH the more I look at it the more I see better 4c options than Shore. He is good defensively but never has he ever scored. You’d want your 4c to at least reach 25 points a season

    • rusty_shakleforde

      You know, I really like the idea of Backlund and Chucky as one of Rebar’s pairs. Hear me out. As you were saying herringchoker, Backlunds leadership and calming influence, not to mention strong possession game, would lend nicely to one of these young fellows you were talking about. We have a bunch of young talent coming in, which would be really good to pair with these two. Chucky has the leadership as well, along with grit, scoring, and everything else. Both him and backs are good defensively.

      What we need tho, is a scoring second line. Backs has the moves. We take him out of the purely defensive mindset of the 3m line, add a scoring winger like Mangiapane (this would be a really great and interesting line I think), add some consistency and strength to Mangiapanes style, and see what happens.

      I like Janko, but there’s no way he’s a second line centre at this point. Hopefully soon, and hopefully Bennett doesn’t ruin him. But not yet.

  • freethe flames

    What do all of the following Flames players or prospects have in common: Shinkaruk, Lazar, Janko, Kulak, Poirier, Klimchuk? They are all younger than Foo. IMO if you can include Foo in a package you do so.