Nolan Foote was highly touted a couple of years ago. He recorded 35 points for the Kelowna Rockets, including 19 goals, as a 16-year-old. Those were impressive numbers, which led to him being projected as a top prospect for the 2019 Draft.
Two years later, it hasn’t really materialized for the forward. He hasn’t shown the progression expected.
That being said, Foote remains a very interesting prospect for teams looking for a goal-scorer. He put up 63 points in 66 games with the Rockets this season. Thirty-six of them were goals, and that’s a big jump from the 13 he recorded in 2017-18.
Birthplace: Denver, CO, USA
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 187 lbs.
Team: Kelowna Rockets
Put into the context of his team, this goal total is more impressive. No one else on the Rocket — a low-scoring team — put up more than 25 goals. Foote was relied on to do the brunt of the work in that area and ultimately make the difference in many games for them. The left-winger also scored more than 20% of his team’s goal this season, a percentage roughly equivalent to the elite scorers in the WHL, who often played with more offensive support.
His best tool, the one that allows him to put the puck in the back of the net so much, is his shot. It can be lightning quick with a lot of power behind it.
The above sequence is remarkable. In a quarter of a second, Foote receives a pass and repositions to shoot, but he wastes no time dragging the puck back. Using a shovel motion (letting his weight do the work), he launches the puck to the top of the net. The goalie was in the right position to make the save, but the glove was clearly late on the sequence due to how fast the puck traveled.
The left-winger can just as well release in motion, and with powerful one-timers from cross-ice passes.
Aside from his release, what should help Foote’s draft stock is his stature. At 6’3” and 187 pounds, he nearly has the physical maturity of an established professional already.
He doesn’t necessarily seek contact, but his size and strength are definitely advantages in close quarters. He can be scary to face when he hunts the puck to get it back, which plays into his solid two-way game.
He is not only a big body, but a smart defender. He uses his stick very well to cut away passing lanes, closes out space for opponents, and breaks his share of opposition attempts. This makes him a trusted element of the coaching staff who regularly put him out against the top players of the opposition and gave him ice time on the penalty kill.
In the clip above, Foote, gliding around in an almost nonchalant way, successively cuts three passes by reading the opposing breakout and placing his stick in the right lanes. It nullifies all offensive attempts and allows his team to get possession back.
Foote’s two-way game could become even more effective with improvements to his skating. Like it is the case for many bigger skaters in Junior, the winger skates in wide tracks and lacks knee-bend, which in turn makes his stride shorter, and has him work harder to catch up to the play.
He will definitely have to work on this facet of his game if he wants to have an impact at the NHL level. Improving his skating will allow him to get in position to make use of his shot, and defensively continue pressuring the faster and faster opposition as he rises through the levels of hockey.
Foote will probably be one of the prospects who varies quite a lot between NHL lists in preparation for the draft. Some teams will be more reluctant to select him due to the skating concerns and him being one of the older players in this draft class. Like many early birthdays, especially the ones with imposing statures, the question remains as to how much of their production can be attributed to them being more mature than their peers.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #58
Future Considerations: #37
NHL Central Scouting: #37 (NA skaters)
Despite the concerns, it’s a safe bet to say that Foote’s goal-scoring talent and two-way game win out in the end and he ends up being selected somewhere in the second round. One team will bet on him putting up great numbers in his last season in Junior in 2019-20, as the Rockets improve around him. An off-season of work to add mobility could go a long way to manufacturing that breakout year.