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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Tyson Foerster’s skating form is holding him back

There’s no denying the level of skill the forward possesses, but a laboured stride could prevent him from using it.

Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Tyson Foerster played a lot of minutes for the Barrie Colts in 2019-20; one of the most-used forwards at even strength in the draft class. He made good use of that time, seeing a massive year-to-year increase in his production, with twice as many assists as he had total points in his rookie year in the OHL, and an impressive 36 goals. He ranked fifth among first-year draft-eligible forwards in the league, with 80 points.

He sits well below the other four — Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, Jack Quinn, and Quinton Byfield — in the draft rankings, and quite possibly won’t even be a first-round pick. Despite the offensive talents, there are a lot of things wrong with his game.

Birthplace: Alliston, Ontario
Date of birth: January 18, 2002
Shoots: Right
Position: Centre/Right-Winger
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 194 lbs.
Team: Barrie Colts (OHL)

One of the issues is made apparent when breaking down his point total by situation. Eighteen of his 36 goals came on the power play, and while he does deserve credit for that conversion, it means that the after playing about 23 minutes of five-on-five time a game for 62 games, he found the back of the net less than once every three contests, despite clearly having exceptional finishing ability.

Elite Prospects

He has a powerful slaphot that’s plenty accurate, and that made him a very dangerous player on the power play. Head coach Todd Miller got the most out of those two traits by designing the man advantage around Foerster sitting in the Alexander Ovechkin spot waiting to blast one-timers, which he did on numerous occasions.

It is a shot that requires some time and a lot of space to get off, so it was on those power-play chances and a few odd-man rushes with fewer opponents to stand in his way that he was able to make the best use of it.

Since he was the shooter on the power play, he wasn’t often setting people up. His goal total may be significantly inflated from all the time at five-at-four, suggesting more scoring talent than he actually possesses, but his assists were earned the hard way.

He was one of the best prospects at setting up teammates for shots at full strength, and even better at directly connecting with them for goals, so there’s nothing deceiving about his 44 assists.

Foerster has very good hockey sense and vision of the ice. He can pick out a teammate racing through the neutral zone from his own end, and spot a friendly stick in a split second after stealing possession away to force the defence into a scramble. With possession in the offensive zone, the opponents need to constantly be aware of his threat to blast a shot on goal, and that just opens up more passing lanes for him to exploit.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #34
Future Considerations: #24
Hockey Prospect: #30
McKeen’s Hockey: #46
McKenzie/TSN: #29
NHL Central Scouting: #21 (North American skaters)

The reason why all of that offensive talent doesn’t have him challenging those top scorers in the OHL for a spot near the top 10 is his skating ability. It is qualified as below average, and may even be the worst form of any player projected to go in the opening two rounds.

Mitch Brown’s Tracking Project

He has to rely on his passing to lead the transition because he can’t do it with his feet. It’s why when watching the highlight video in this article you see very few plays that start from the defensive end. What Foerster does excel at is stripping the puck in the neutral zone, reading the intentions of defenders as the opposing players are all heading down the ice, and the time it takes for them to turn around and react allows him to create the separation needed for a breakaway or a two-on-one. Most of those steals also happen with him already facing the offensive zone, and not tracking down a puck-carrier on the backcheck, as he doesn’t have the pace to make that happen.

With no explosiveness, he can’t gain the one step of separation he needs to get beyond the reach of a defender and fire his shot. It’s why so few of his goals come at five-on-five, relying on the speed of the puck moving to a teammate rather than that of his feet to contribute offence at full strength.

The skating ability is a major hindrance to his overall game. He’s able to compensate with his hockey sense by knowing where he needs to be on a play, and taking the shortest route there to beat opponents who, nearly to a man, are faster that he is. As he attempts to rise through the ranks of professional hockey, the competition will have filtered out players with critical faults. Even with his awareness, vision, and offensive skills, he could end up as one of those players who can’t make it through the door. Like Victor Olofsson did in the Buffalo Sabres organization, he may need to keep blasting it open on the power play.