The Flames have long been devoid of right wingers. They’ve taken a couple of steps to try to rectify that – signing Troy Brouwer was one, acquiring Elias Lindholm and James Neal is probably a better route – but in between those moves, they won the bidding war for undrafted third-year NCAA right-shooting right winger Spencer Foo.
Foo chose the Flames in part because their lack of depth at the position gave him more of an opening than he might have had with another team. Now entering his second professional year, there may just be that spot available for the 24-year-old 6′, 190 lb. forward – but he’ll have to earn it.
How did we get here?
Originally from Edmonton, Foo got his start playing in local minor hockey, where he put up decent, if unspectacular, under a point per game numbers. (Playing midget in 2010-11, he had 27 points in 34 games; for comparison, Morgan Klimchuk, a year his junior, was one of the league’s top scorers with 50 points in 32 games that same season. Foo had 25 points in 34 games the following season, while Klimchuk was in the WHL.)
In 2012-13, Foo joined the AJHL as an 18-year-old, playing the first of two seasons for the Bonnyville Pontiacs. He had 30 points in 55 games that season, fifth on his team in scoring. The following year, he scored 67 points in 60 games, leading his team in scoring by 16 points and placing sixth in overall AJHL scoring.
Twenty years old for the start of the 2014-15 season, Foo made the jump to the NCAA, playing his first of three seasons for Union College. In his first year he scored 25 points in 39 games, good for sixth in team scoring; in his sophomore season he had a marginal improvement by scoring 25 points in 36 games, jumping up to second in team scoring.
With a largely unimpressive – though not terrible – career to that point, Foo exploded for the 2016-17 season, his third year playing for Union. He scored 26 goals and 62 points over 38 games, more than doubling his college productivity and drawing the attention of NHL teams. He finished second in team scoring, a year behind senior Mike Vecchione, who had 63 points in 38 games (and, perhaps more importantly, with a 50-point season under his belt during Foo’s rookie year, a slightly better track record for scoring at the NCAA level). He was also fourth in NCAA-wide scoring: the top three scorers all had just one more point than he did.
Foo left college a .99 point per game player, foregoing his senior year to sign in Calgary.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
Foo spent most of his first professional season playing in the AHL, but earned himself a late NHL call-up to get him some big league experience, briefly taking him out of Stockton’s lineup at the time of a playoff push.
In the AHL, Foo finished tied for third in team scoring with Rasmus Andersson; only Andrew Mangiapane (46 points) and Klimchuk (40) scored more than he did. He was tied for 17th overall in AHL rookie scoring. He led the Heat with 161 shots on net over the season, which was also tied for sixth most among all AHL rookies.
For a college-to-pro comparison, Foo’s teammate at Union, Vecchione, scored 40 points in 65 games over the course of his first AHL season.
Foo’s first and second NHL goals came against Connor Hellebuyck and Marc-Andre Fleury in the final two meaningless games of the year.
For a deeper dive into Foo’s numbers, revisit Christian Tiberi’s writeup on him here.
Those in the know
As the Stockton Heat’s former assistant coach – and now, its new head coach for the 2018-19 season – Cail MacLean worked a lot with Foo over his first professional season:
I think that he’s a very studious and intense young man that he gets consistency as well. And I think that he learned over the first half of the season some of the detail that needed to come into play in order to be effective every time he was on the ice, once he started to get that there’s no question he was willing to commit to that with his work ethic. He’s a gritty player, he’ll go to those areas and he’ll compete to find pucks and compete to make sure that he’s in the right positions. It just takes him a little bit to time to latch onto the correct approach but I think once he does, I give him a lot of credit for what he’s willing to give and his maturity as a pro to make sure that he’s good and consistent from game to game.
And of course, we’ve got input from Stockton’s Finest, our resident Heat correspondent:
He was the most improved player on the Heat. Foo took a little time to adjust to the pro game, but once he settled in, he was good. He was one of a handful of players that actually knew where the front of the net was and that he could score off rebounds if he paid the price. He likes to shoot, pacing the team with 161 shots on goal. At the beginning of the year, it was like he was shooting just to shoot, but the last half of the season he shot with purpose.
On the horizon
Foo could be an NHL regular as soon as this season.
By buying out Brouwer, the Flames have opened up an avenue for a prospect to make the team as a regular, and Foo’s name is definitely among the group that should be top candidates competing for the spot over training camp. While the Flames’ right wing depth has gotten better with the additions of Neal and Lindholm, there’s still always room for improvement, top to bottom: and if he’s NHL-ready now, he should be able to make the team.
The opportunity is there. The rest of it is up to him. If not, then a good AHL season doesn’t hurt, either – but already 24, the sooner Foo proves himself, the better.
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|#14 – D’Artagnan Joly||#13 – Adam Ruzicka|
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