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.
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.
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…
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.
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