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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Jean-Luc Foudy is still learning what to do with his speed

There’s no faster player in the draft class than Foudy, but much of his game still needs a lot of work.

Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Jean-Luc Foudy was sitting in the stands during the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, waiting with his family to hear a team call his brother’s name. Liam Foudy was the 18th overall pick in that draft, going to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round. He has since made his NHL debut, and just played all 10 post-season games for the team.

One year later, scouts were preparing to watch Jean-Luc stake his own claim to a high selection in his draft season. He’d been very strong in 2018-19 and had the tools for a proper breakout in the most recent campaign. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t the case.

Birthplace: Scarborough, Ontario
Date of birth: May 13, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 168 lbs.
Team: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

A 49-point draft-minus-one season pointed to a lot of potential. There weren’t many goals, but Foudy’s playmaking was on display on his 41 assists. His draft year brough more personal scoring, upping his goal total from eight to 15, but his points-per-game rate actually dropped.

Unlike some other prospects we’ve seen undeperform over the years, you can’t point to the poor quality of his team for that decline. The Windsor Spitfires were the seventh-highest-scoring team in the Ontario Hockey League at the time of the pause, with a 34-20-8 record. Two players scored above a point-per-game pace, and six forwards had more points than Foudy.

Elite Prospects

Such a down performance was completely unexpected given the tools he possesses. Elite Prospects ranks him as the best straight-line skater in the draft, and he creates plenty of offensive opportunities because of it. Rarely beaten to loose pucks, he can zip passes across the offensive zone to find a teammate trailing on the rush.

Many of his assists were created by that unmatched pace, those whipped cross-ice passes, or a combination of the two. Even at full speed he can turn his body to point toward the middle of the ice and land a pass right on a teammate’s stick.

His goals largely came when was able to find himself in a bit of space around the net, getting a shot off from close range. He doesn’t have the quickness or the power on his release to beat goalies from distance, and his offensive game suffers as a result. He’s very much a playmaker, and without significant improvement to his shot he’s going to be limited to a setup role in the professional game.

The biggest problem with Foudy’s offensive game is that often those setups don’t come at all. Many of his offensive-zone presences see him doing a lap of the offensive zone in full control of the puck, with teammates waiting for a pass to come, and it never does. Eventually either a low-percentage shot or a takeaway ends the play. He defaults to the outside lane when going one-on-one with a defender, unwilling to attack the middle of the ice where his speed could give him a major advantage. It’s those issues that not only keep his point totals low, but make scouts question his future offensive impact.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #55
Future Considerations: #49
Hockey Prospect: #58
McKeen’s Hockey: #48
McKenzie/TSN: #46
NHL Central Scouting: #33 (North American skaters)

All of the outlets have Foudy pegged as a second-rounder. The incredible skating and obvious playmaking talent he possesses keep him in somewhat high regard, even if any first-round projections from one year ago have gone by the wayside. There is more that his speed can provide a team than creating offensive chances, and that will keep several NHL organizations interested.

Mitch Brown’s Tracking Project

It’s not surprising that his passing numbers rank among the elite playmakers of the 2020 class. Firing a pass into the slot is the most effective way of creating goals, and that’s what Foudy did best. It’s a trait he shares with his older brother, as both were near the top in those categories in their time in the OHL, though Liam was the much better finisher.

Where Jean-Luc bests his sibling is in transition. He has been one of the best forwards at escaping his own zone with possession of the puck. He’s also one of the better prospects in this draft at thwarting opposition rushes and offensive-zone possessions, turning defence into offence.

That’s an important skill in the modern game where the aim has become to move up the ice as a five-man unit and prevent the opposition from gaining access to the puck. Foudy can get up to speed in a hurry to blow past the line of defence, and even at the NHL level he would create odd-man rushes or at least force the defence to retreat when his team gained control. At the very least he should be a positive-impact bottom-six player, a pain for his counterparts to handle.

There’s plenty of work for him to do to achieve his goal of playing in the NHL. Addressing the issues with his offensive game is the best way to ensure his future in the league. A speedy playmaker who makes good decisions with the puck would find a spot on any roster, especially if he turn his shot into more of a threat to open up his options. That opportunity may never materialize if he remains a perimeter player who often hesitates to incorporate his teammates in the play, and those are the two aspects an NHL club will need to be confident it can correct during his development in order to select him relatively high in this year’s draft.