Prospect of Interest: The 411 on Cal Foote

Cal Foote. (Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets)

Adam Foote had a big presence on the ice during his illustrious 20-year NHL career. If you can believe it, his son could grow to be even bigger.

Cal Foote is about as close to a sure thing as you can get in this year’s draft class. The consistent, two-way rearguard has the size, smarts and pedigree to make him a top-four NHL defenceman, with his offensive upside separating his game from that of his dad’s. Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek said in March’s prospect ranking that Foote “will be a 12-year NHLer” and is a “a really solid, safe pick.”

Here’s what you need to know.

Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Position: Defence
Shoots: Right
Age: 18
From: Denver, CO.
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 212 pounds
NHL Central Scouting ranking (North America): No. 12

Jeff Marek’s Take: “A second generation player who doesn’t really play the way his father Adam did. Cal’s more offensively oriented. Can anchor a PP and has a good, hard shot.”

Hockey runs in the family

When your dad is two-time Stanley Cup champion Adam Foote, you’ve got big shoes to fill. With size 16 feet, however, that shouldn’t be a problem for Cal Foote.

“No one in my family has overly big feet besides my brother [Nolan Foote, a 2018 draft prospect] and I,” Foote told NHL.com. “… We don’t know why. It’s just something that’s been like that.”

Foote’s big frame is definitely thanks to his dad, who made his living as a forceful blueliner who wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty.

Cal may look like his dad, but he plays a different style of game that’s less in-your-face and more intellectual.

“I think the best trait is his intelligence,” Kelowna assistant general manager Lorne Frey told NHL.com. “He’s very smart. Cerebral. He makes excellent decisions with the puck. And he’s a very good defender in the sense that you can tell he’s been well-schooled. He’s very good defensively, he moves the puck exceptionally well. He’s very intelligent. He has offensive ability as well.”

While he is certainly able to use size to his advantage, Cal could stand to take a few more pages from his father’s book to round out his game.

“The physicality bit, last year in situations due to his age and strength, strength was a factor in certain situations. But that’s coming,” Frey said. He probably played last year at 185 [pounds] and I think we’re confident that that trait is going to kick in as he progresses physically. He’ll acquire that trait as he moves along here.”

Also worth noting: Foote’s younger brother, 16-year-old forward Nolan, is also shaping up to be a top NHL prospect. The two play together on the Kelowna Rockets. Keep the name on your radar for the 2019 draft, where early rumblings have him slated as a potential lottery pick.

Matt Duchene is his bro (sort of)
Foote grew up around the Avalanche, and as such he developed unique relationships with the team’s players and looked up to many of them. He has an especially close bond with Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, who lived with the Footes during his first two NHL seasons and took on the role of both a brother and a role model for the Cal and Nolan.

“It was really cool to see the bond that we developed with him and how good he was to us,” Foote said of Duchene, via NHL.com. “Going to the rink and seeing him prepare was pretty cool, to see the different styles between him and my dad. But it was really cool to see how they both did it.

“I definitely do remember being with Matt and Gabriel [Landeskog] and guys like that, and looking up to them and being in shock. For me, I just sat back. I didn’t really get in their way of what they’re doing and kind of learned what to do. It was definitely a great experience and I’ll always remember being in there with them.”

Clearly, he was taking notes. Duchene even spent some time with Foote’s minor hockey team, and was impressed by the youngster’s skills.

“I remember one game I was on the bench and watching him, he was the top guy on the power play and he was quarterbacking the whole thing,” Duchene told NHL.com. “At a young age he was faking slap shots, sliding it over, giving the guy on the half wall more time. Little things you see elite pros do and he was doing it at a young age.”

The bond between the Foote kids and Duchene remains strong.

“The three of us used to play for hours downstairs in the basement,” Duchene said. “… They were the closest thing to brothers that I have. Pretty cool to see how well they’re doing. I keep in touch with them quite often. Definitely wish them the best.”

Another Kelowna defenceman

Foote has played two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets, a WHL powerhouse when it comes to developing defencemen. All-star blue liners Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Tyler Myers, Alexander Edler, and Tyson Barrie have also come out of the Rockets’ program.

“When I decided to go to Kelowna, it was definitely a goal of mine to be a part of that group of defencemen that have moved on to have a successful career,” Foote told reporters at the combine.

Kelowna has also produced several other successful NHLers, including forwards Jamie Benn, Leon Draisaitl and Mikael Backlund.

He’s stuck in international purgatory

There’s a gap in Foote’s otherwise impressive resume when it comes to the international section. Foote intended on following in his father’s footsteps and wear the Team Canada sweater, and was even invited to Hockey Canada’s camp last summer ahead of this year’s world juniors tournament.

Born in Colorado to Canadian parents, Foote has dual citizenship and could have fit nicely on Canada’s strong blue line at the 2017 tournament but an International Ice Hockey Federation rule prevented him from being allowed to sport the maple leaf. The IIHF requires a player to have lived in the country he wishes to represent for 16 consecutive months as well as play for a team in that country for two full seasons. By the time December 2016 rolled around, Foote had been living in Canada for the required time but was only part way through his second season with the Rockets. A petition put forth by Hockey Canada was denied, and Foote stayed home.

He could have turned around and suited up for Team USA at the tournament, but will instead push for a spot on Team Canada’s roster next year.