It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs are rebuilding. That may confuse people, based their success this year but don’t let this success fool you. The Leafs are still in their rebuilding stages in order to contend.
The Maple Leafs have a glut of young and exceptionally talented forward prospects. Many of them are playing with the big club this year including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Connor Brown. Others are plying their trade in lower leagues like Kapseri Kapanen with the Marlies or Adam Brooks with Regina of the WHL.
When you look at the Leafs’ prospect pool on the defensive side, however, not many names immediately leap out at you. Andrew Nielsen is an intriguing player to watch. Drafted in the third round back in 2015, he’s become an offensive threat and is having a very successful first season in the AHL.
In order for the Maple Leafs to continue to be successful in the coming years, selecting a stud defenseman in the upcoming draft, is all but imperative.
Cal Foote is the Perfect Choice
If you watch the Leafs on a regular basis, you realize that as talented as the team is, there is still more work to do. They need a strong defensive core, preferably one that they have developed within as opposed to spending an arm and a leg to acquire outside of the organization.
The Leafs should look to Western Canada and the Kelowna Rockets where Cal Foote is playing. Foote has been drawing rave reviews in his draft season and for good reason. He already stands at 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds. As he matures, he’ll add weight and muscle to his already large frame.
He’s a valuable right shot defenseman and typically plays a two-way game. He has an absolute bullet of a shot but is also extremely comfortable stepping back and playing a more defensive role. In 50 games for the Rockets this year, Foote has five goals and 40 points.
Foote is also well liked in the dressing room. If there’s a knock against the young blueliner, it would have to be his skating. It’s not considered terrible, but working on his foot speed would be beneficial to his development at the NHL level. Fortunately, skating is one thing that can be taught and worked on.
The Defense Factory in Kelowna is Still Open
It’s no secret that the Rockets have been able to develop some of the NHL’s best defensemen through the years. Notable names include Sheldon Souray, Colton Sissons, Josh Gorges and former Leaf, Luke Schenn. There are also more elite names such as Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, Montreal’s Shea Weber and Chicago’s Duncan Keith. The Blackhawks defenseman has won just about everything including three Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals, and a Norris trophy as the league’s best defender.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) January 12, 2017
Foote also has the NHL in his blood courtesy of his father, Adam. Many will remember the elder Foote as a bruising and mean defenseman who spent the majority of his career patrolling the blueline for the Colorado Avalanche.
The young Foote is projected to be a top flight defenseman in the NHL. He’s a top prospect in the WHL and is currently ranked anywhere between 12th and 23rd overall. The Maple Leafs’ pick will likely fall into that area.
They should strongly consider taking the big defenseman and adding him to their young and talented team of the future.