Summer is finally in full swing. With that, most people around the hockey world are off on their vacations while enjoying the downtime that comes with the offseason.
At the Hockey Writers, we write about hockey 12 months a year. In the spirit of that, we now begin our new series that will last until training camps begin in September. We will look at prospects around the league that are facing the most pressure in 2022-23.
In other words, if these prospects continue to struggle or put up an underwhelming season, their teams might have no choice but to move on from them despite the promise they once had.
In the first part, we are going to look at a Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect that started his career off with a bang on the big stage. But since then, it’s been nothing but injury and inconsistency.
Setting the Scene – 2018 Draft
The Blue Jackets found themselves in a somewhat unfamiliar spot entering the 2018 draft. They held the 18th overall pick. That’s because they made the playoffs after a 97-point season.
After a hard fought loss in six games to the Washington Capitals, the Blue Jackets were looking to build off the momentum of making the playoffs. With the draft that year held in Dallas, it was no wonder that former Blue Jacket Seth Jones got to announce the pick. With the 18th overall pick, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and staff took their chances on speedster Liam Foudy.
This was an interesting and significant pick at the time. Foudy’s play in London helped him shoot up the final draft rankings from the 90s to 19th. This indicated some disagreement amongst the scouting world. Those that loved him saw the speed and skill he brought. Those with questions wondered what his true upside was.
In the beginning, the pick looked really good.
The Toronto Bubble
The Blue Jackets were just minutes away from knocking the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the bubble playoffs on their home ice. Up 3-0 with just four minutes left, the Maple Leafs looked dead.
However, the Maple Leafs stormed back in historic fashion by scoring three goals to force overtime before winning it in overtime to force Game 5. That’s when Foudy introduced himself to the hockey world.
With the score 1-0 late in the game, Foudy’s speed allowed him to surprise goalie Frederik Andersen to score a huge insurance goal. The Blue Jackets added an empty netter and won Game 5 going away 3-0. That goal was Foudy’s first NHL goal.
Foudy’s goal was scored on Aug 9, 2020. Since then though, he has appeared in just 25 NHL games in the last two seasons. In that time, he has appeared in 41 games for AHL Cleveland.
Injuries & Inconsistency
To Foudy’s credit, he has recorded 35 points in those 41 games for the Monsters. When he’s played, he’s produced. The issue for him of late has been his health.
Foudy last played a game on Jan 30, 2022. He missed the rest of the season after suffering an upper-body injury. Had he been healthy, there’s a strong chance he would have seen some time with the Blue Jackets as the season wound down.
However injuries have not been the only issue for Foudy. Inconsistency has plagued him since the bubble. He has just four assists in those 25 NHL games the last two seasons. His only NHL goal remains the goal he scored in Game 5.
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There’s a couple things in play here. First, under then head coach John Tortorella, Foudy could not find enough consistency in his game to stay in the lineup. As with many young players under Tortorella, you have to play well on the other side of the puck. This was an area of Foudy’s game that was a major work in progress. While his speed has always been there, he wasn’t using it enough to his advantage.
This caused Foudy to slip down the depth chart to a point where it made sense for him to play top line minutes with the Monsters. He could work on the defensive side of the game while playing in big situations. From all indications, this has been a success when he’s stayed healthy.
During this whole process, other players passed Foudy and have earned playing time. That’s why the two-year deal he received is significant. The team still believes that he has a lot to give them.
Foudy’s Golden Opportunity
The contract extension is a two-way deal the first year and a one-way deal the second year. It’s an interesting insight into what the Blue Jackets hope for from Foudy.
First, Foudy needs to stay healthy. Assuming he’s ready, training camp will mark almost eight months between his last game and the start of camp. We’ll see right away how he’s handled the offseason and if he’s ready to take the next steps in his career.
Second, Foudy isn’t guaranteed a roster spot on the Blue Jackets this fall. He will have every opportunity to win a job but with so many wingers in the fold, he will have to overcome a lot of competition. If he fails to make the Blue Jackets, he is not waivers exempt. Although it’s a two-way deal, teams could claim him should he hit waivers. It will be curious to see how the team handles this if he’s on the bubble to make the roster.
Lastly, Foudy is a one-way deal next season meaning his salary is the same no matter if he’s in the AHL or NHL. The Blue Jackets are showing faith in him with this kind of contract. He still has tools that make him an interesting prospect. But this could be his final chance to make an impression.
When you couple the intense competition at wing with Foudy having to make up for lost time due to injury, you can see why his situation puts him under a lot of pressure. We’ll get a sense of his place on the depth chart come September. He has a golden opportunity to show everyone his best is yet to come. But the chances of him going back to the AHL are just as strong.
Foudy has an intriguing set of skills. But in order for him to be a part of the future of the Blue Jackets, he needs to come into camp ready to go and ready to prove a point. Anything short of that and his future will certainly be questioned.
It’s put up or shut up time for Foudy. The clock has officially started on him. He has two years to make his case for the future.