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.
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.
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.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 Points||5v5 Primary points||NHLe|
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.
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.
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.
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