Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Who Is Nolan Foote?

The Tampa Bay Lightning choose Nolan Foote with the 27th selection at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. What do the Bolts need to know about the draftee.

The Options.

In the first round of the 2019 NHL entry draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning had 1 pick, at 27th overall. At the time of their pick, they had a real good batch of players to choose from, as they had dropped far down the ranks. That crop included, but not limited to, Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink, Pavel Dorofeyev, Raphael Lavoie, Nils Hoglander and Sam Fagemo. All of them would have been real good picks at 27, but instead the Lightning went way off the board and reached. They selected a guy who was ranked 30 or so picks later, in Nolan Foote. Obviously, not a good choice considering all other candidates, and Julien BriseBois continues to have a just awful offseason. So unimpressive since taking over as GM, and it has gotten worse and worse with each decision. But, there’s no going back now, so let’s break down Nolan Foote’s game.

The Basics

Nolan Foote, for those who don’t know, is the brother of Callan Foote, who is a prospect for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was ranked as early as 38th and as late as 87th by experts, which is not a very good look on the surface. Playing on the left wing for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, he managed to put up 36 goals and 27 assists (63 points) in 66 games. He was given the assistant captaincy duties after his older brother Cal left for the AHL. He stands at 6’3, and 190 pounds, giving him good size, which addresses a need for Tampa. However, Raphael Lavoie did the same, and is much better. Even John Beecher, selected at 30 by the Bruins, would have been a better option. But maybe I am missing something…

Scouting Report

After this pick, I was so baffled that I watched 2 hours worth of film to try and figure out what Tampa saw, and why they valued him above other, better, players. Let’s begin.

Nolan Foote isn’t a good skater, and it’s safe to say he is the worst skater taken in the first round. He isn’t particularly slow, as he keeps up with the game, but he struggles stopping and taking tight turns, which will be a huge problem if not fixed. He also doesn’t have good balance despite his size, going down too easy. Luckily, Barb Underhill is a great skating coach, and could get him past those hurdles. He shows very good puck control and uses his frame fully to protect the puck. He likes to be creative offensively, but there are too many times where he tries to be too cute with the puck and turns it over, and he just looks silly doing it. He also tries forcing passes into traffic at times, and either waits too long to make a pass or doesn’t wait long enough for a lane to develop. But at times, he shows good vision, and makes the easy pass if it’s there, but he is still too streaky there to really know where he stands with his playmaking game. He loves getting to the dirty areas, battling along the boards and in the corners. He also tends to park himself right in front of the opposing goalie as a screen, looking for tips and rebounds. He played on the powerplay for Kelowna last year, starting the year as the net-front presence. But, when his older brother Cal left, he played at the half-wall and at the point on the powerplay, and that’s when he began to really display his shooting abilities. He has a very hard wrist shot, and a knack for putting pucks on net. He also has a lethal one-timer, off his slap shot. But, the move from net-front to the half-wall on the powerplay allowed him to show his game as a facilitator on the powerplay. He did exceptionally well moving the puck on the man advantage, with quick, crisp passes to the wingers down low. Without the puck, he does a nice job finding soft areas in coverage to get open for a pass from a teammate. However, there are times where he can’t handle a hard pass, even if it’s tape to tape. That’s something that can be coached, as the technique of receiving passes are easy to learn and adjust to. When there is a board battle on the far side wing, he tends to puck watch and get sucked into the play. He doesn’t realize himself getting pulled into the scrum until the puck is taken out and he is in the way of a teammate. But again, that’s something that can be ironed out with maturity and coaching. He is a lazy forechecker, often not getting engaged, but he has a good active stick and hand eye coordination that he pairs with good anticipation, which allows him to intercept passes on the opponents break out. He backchecks hard, but he isn’t a good enough skater yet to really make an impact on the backcheck. Defensively, he is positionally sound, as he doesn’t chase the puck around the zone, or get caught puck watching defensively. He gets involved down low, supporting the defense, and isn’t afraid to play the body if necessary, or battle for the puck along the boards. He is unafraid of blocking shots if he needs to, which is why I see him as an effective penalty killer.

Future Role:

Skating is obviously the biggest need for him in his development, because if he doesn’t get better on his edges to enable him to stop and start with the puck, then he will never make the NHL. But if he works on it, and gets considerably better, while fine tuning his already established two-way game, he projects as a middle 6 winger, with PK time, and maybe even PP time if needed by the team. He is still 3 to 4 years out from making an NHL impact, at least at the moment, but he does show some promise.

Stats via eliteprospects

Featured Image Credit: Justin Miner

WHL Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Preview

WHL Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Preview

After 68 games, it is time to begin the best part of the season, the postseason. In the West, it was the US Division that saw a lot of success, as teams from the States took five out of the eight playoff spots. The divisional matchups will make for some great action, while the lone inter-divisional matchup should be intriguing to fans on both sides.

B.C. Division

(1) Vancouver Giants vs. (WC2) Seattle Thunderbirds

Vancouver has had one of the best seasons the franchise has had in recent memory. Just a few years removed from three-straight last place finishes, the Giants finished the regular season atop the Western Conference standings. Thanks in large part to a very solid defence core and incredible goaltending. Bowen Byram has been solid on the blueline for Vancouver. While his +33 plus-minus is best on the team, his 71 points is second in team scoring behind Davis Koch, and third in WHL defencemen scoring. David Tendeck and Trent Miner have been the best goaltending tandem in the league. They are third and fourth in goals-against-average with Miner’s 1.98 GAA and Tendeck’s 2.48 GAA.

The Thunderbirds come into the playoffs on quite a roll, winning eight of their final 11 games, including a big win over Victoria, and a sweep over Portland in the final weekend of the regular season. Matthew Wedman has been a bruiser for Seattle, while leading the team points with 77, he also led the team in penalty minutes with 110. Noah Philip has been an incredible playmaker for the Thunderbirds, leading the team with 49 helpers. Off his 75 points he scored this season, 33 of them came on the power play. 

Between these two teams, yes the mismatches are eminent. However, the teams are fairly matched on the offencive side of the puck, as the Giants, in total, scored 228 goals, while Seattle potted 231. Home ice has not been a factor in any of the four games between these two, as the road club won all four matchups.

My Pick

This will be a battle between the pipes, as good as rookie Ross Roddy has been lately for Seattle, he does not measure up to the level that Miner and Tendeck are at. Seattle will give everything they have, but the Giants will find a way to take the series in seven.

(2) Victoria Royals vs. (3) Kamloops Blazers

Talk about “blazing” your way into a playoff spot, Kamloops won five of their last six games to catch Kelowna on the final day of the regular season to force a tiebreaker matchup, which the Blazers won on Tuesday night. It was quite a run for a team that does not have a whole lot of offence in their arsenal, as they have scored the fewest goals among any team in the WHL playoffs. That means it will be up to rookie Dylan Garand to step up for the Blazers in this series. After Dylan Ferguson fell into a slump in the second half of the season, Garand took the reigns and was phenomenal, as he only gave up more than two goals once in his final six starts. 

While the Blazers have the least amount of goals scored, the Royals have the second-least amount of goals scored with 199 goals this season. Where they differ from their counterparts is how they ended the regular season. Victoria lost five of their last six games heading into the playoffs, including an 8-0 thumping at the hands of Kamloops. No Royal has more than 50 points this season, but five players have more than 40, including defenceman Scott Walford, who finished second on the team with 47 points.

Don’t expect a lot of high flying offence in this series, as neither team has any game-changing talent up front. It’s going to be a battle of defencive systems between Blazers Head Coach Serge Lajoie and Victoria’s Dan Price. Each game in this series may come out as a one-goal game, making each contest exciting until the final buzzer. Despite the last meeting of the regular season, the Royals have handled themselves well against the Blazers, winning all four games on home ice.

My Pick

If it comes down to the netminders, you have to give Kamloops the advantage with Garand in net, especially the way he’s been playing, Blazers in six.

U.S. Division

(1) Everett Silvertips vs. (WC1) Tri-City Americans

The ‘Tips Finished third in the WHL behind Vancouver and Prince Albert with 99 points this season. In a season where the team was expected to take a dip following the graduation of, now-Philadelphia goaltender Carter Hart, Everett has flourished. Connor Dewar and Bryce Kindopp have been outstanding on the top line, and the addition of Zack Andrusiak from Seattle has added a huge offencive boost. However, it has been the goaltender who has once again garnered the spotlight, as Dustin Wolf has made his case for the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy for WHL Goaltender of the Year. Wolf finished first in the league in wins (41), goals-against-average (1.69), and save-percentage (.936).

Tri-City is not looking in the best of shape heading into this first round. Along with losing their final five games of the regular season, the Americans also lost 10 out of their last 11. It will be huge for Tri-City’s leading scorer, Parker AuCoin, to step up if they want any chance in this series. The Americans possess one of the best youngsters in the WHL, as Krystof Hrabik finished third in rookie scoring with 51 points. Defenceman Aaron Hyman has helped the offencive effort as well, as his 50 points his tied for 10th in blueline scoring.

Given that Everett has been so consistent this season, it will be difficult for the struggling Americans to trip them up in this series. With the tight-knit defence from the Silvertips, along with the timely scoring from their top-two lines, expect Tri-City to have their handsful on both ends of the rink. Even when Tri-Cityis able to break through for a scoring chance, they run into Dustin Wolf.

My Pick

A defencive juggernaut against a team that has struggled at times to find goals, ‘Tips in four.

(2) Spokane Chiefs vs. (3) Portland Winterhawks

Portland sure has had a very interesting season. The team started out looking to contend for a division title, and continued to impress well past the Holiday Break. Then, on February 23rd, Cody Glass suffered a gruesome-looking knee injury that ended his season. The Winterhawks have not been the same in his absence. Joachim Blichfeld continued to produce in his absence, and ended up leading the WHL in points with 114, and tied for the most goals with 53. Players such as Jake Gricius and Reece Newkirk have had to pick up the slack, but have only done so mildly with Gricius posting 61 points, while Newkirk amassed 59 points.

The Chiefs on the other hand, were able to make a late run in the final month of the season to snag home-ice advantage right from underneath the Winterhawks. Spokane went 7-2 in the month of March, and riding high heading into the playoffs. Riley Woods had a solid end to his season, as the Chiefs’ leading-scorer registered 10 points in the month of March. Ty Smith was a big player at both ends of the rink for Spokane this year, including putting up 69 points, good for fourth among WHL defencemen in scoring.

Two teams heading different directions heading into this series, the Winterhawks need to find some form of consistency if they want to knock off the Chiefs. While Blichfeld has been good, Portland will need more from their second and third line to step up. Each team took three of the six games during the regular season. However since Glass’ injury, the Chiefs have taken the last two meetings, both in Portland.

My Pick

Without the x-factor that Glass is, Blichfeld cannot carry the team himself against a hot Chiefs club. The ‘Hawks keep it close, but the Chiefs pull it out in six.

All stats and records found from the WHL and Elite Prospects.

WHL Report: Four Teams Fighting For the Remaining Playoff Spots

WHL Report: Four Teams Fighting For the Remaining Playoff Spots

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, there’s still a lot to play for, as a couple of teams sitting outside of a playoff spot still have a chance to earn their way into the postseason.  With only spot available in each of the conferences, it is do-or-die for four teams who want to get into the playoffs.

Eastern Conference: Red Deer Trying to Hold Off Brandon

Out in the Eastern Conference, a duo of clubs have an opportunity to clinch the last Wild Card spot. Coming out of the Central Division, the Red Deer Rebels currently sit four points ahead of the Brandon Wheat Kings. While these two teams will not meet in the final weekend of the regular season, Both teams will be keeping a close eye on one another.

Red Deer Just Needs One

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The Rebels have not struggled as bad as Medicine Hat has as of late, however Red Deer at one point was one of the hottest teams in the WHL. However, lackluster play over the past few months have seen Red Deer drop out of the top-three. It did not help when they lost six in a row at the end of January into February, losing 11 of 12 in that time span. It also did not help that the team right above them in the standings, the Medicine Hat Tigers, beat the Rebels on Wednesday night to clinch one of the two Wild Card spots.

The Rebels will have to play Lethbridge and Kootenay this weekend, as the Hurricanes visit Red Deer on Friday, while the ICE host the Rebels on the final day of the regular season on Sunday. The Hurricanes have won three of the five meetings against Red Deer this season, including shelling the Rebels with a 6-2 win on February the 1st. The Hurricanes have been on a storm surge of sorts, as they have won 11 of their last 13 games.

Red Deer has a little more favourable odds against Kootenay, as they have won all five games this season against the ICE, with two of them coming in extra time.

Brandon Clinging To Hope

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The Wheat Kings have really battled throughout the season with the best in the East Division. However, a slow second half to the season has pushed them out of the top-three, and outside the playoff picture all together. After a six-game win streak in the middle of February, including an overtime win over the dominant Prince Albert Raiders, Brandon has only won one out of their last eight games. This includes losses to Medicine Hat and Red Deer, teams they were trying to stay in front of not too long ago.

If there is a glimmer of hope for the Wheat Kings, it is their opponent this weekend. The Regina Pats will meet with Brandon for a home-and-home this weekend. It has been a tight set of games between the two, as each team has won three of the six meetings this season. Yet, the Pats are heading into the weekend riding a seven-game losing streak, with their last win coming on February 22nd.

My Pick

Even though Brandon has an opportunity to sweep the weekend against Regina, it is hard to see Red Deer losing to Kootenay on Sunday, giving the Rebels the final playoff spot in the East.

Western Conference: Kamloops Surging Towards Kelowna

The U.S. Division has dominated the West this season (with the exception of Vancouver). So much to the point that five teams from the States have already punched their tickets to the postseason, including Tri-City and Seattle owning the two Wild Card spots. The one spot remaining sits in the B.C. Division, as the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets are neck-and-neck heading towards the end of the regular season.

Kelowna Holding On by Their Fingertips

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A month ago, if you had said the Rockets would be one point away from falling out the playoffs, you may have heard a chuckle or two. At one point, it looked like Kelowna would be able to steer clear of Kamloops. However, it has been a tough go as of late for the Rockets. They are 1-2-3 in the month of March, and have been mediocre at best since the trade deadline. It has been a roller coaster of a second-half for them. They have been on an odd pattern of wining a game, losing two in a row, win a game, lose three in a row. Sitting only point ahead the Blazers, Kelowna will need a big weekend to lock up the last playoff spot in the B.C. Division

However, they will have to do so in a home-and-home against the Vancouver Giants, the best team in the Western Conference. It is almost funny how good the Giants have been compared the rest of their division, as they sit 28 points ahead of second-place Victoria. Home ice certainly has not helped the Rockets this season against Vancouver, as the Giants have won all four meetings at the Prospera Place, outscoring the home team by a combined score of 11-2. The lone victory Kelowna has picked up against Vancouver was back on January 27th at the Langley Events Centre.

Coming in Blazing

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If you want to talk about a team playing playoff hockey during the regular season, look no further than the Kamloops Blazers. After losing six of seven games as February turned into March, the Blazers kicked it into high gear, and have reeled off four in a row to put them back in the hunt for the postseason. This includes a sweep last weekend over third-place Kelowna, and 5-1 and 8-0 thrashings of Spokane and Victoria, respectively. By far the hottest team in the West, Kamloops are right on the coattails of the Rockets.

They will have a home-and-home to end the regular season, and it will be against the Prince George Cougars. The Cougars will finish last in the Western Conference for the second season in a row, however they are coming off a win over Portland. Kamloops is 6-1 this season against Prince George, despite the Cougars winning the last meeting back on February 22nd.

My Pick

It is hard to see Vancouver fall off the run they are on against Kelowna, and Kamloops has handled the Cougars easily throughout the season. Kelowna may earn a split against the Giants, but I see the Blazers jumping into the final playoff spot with a sweep over the Cougars.

stats from WHL.ca