The son of former NHLer Adam Foote, Nolan Foote has seen his draft stock fall over the last three years.
Yes, that’s right: the last three years. Foote burst onto the scene in his draft-minus-two season putting up 19 goals and 16 assists as a 16 year old, but hasn’t really been able to build on that success. He had a good draft season this year but the shine has slightly worn off of him.
Sometimes expectations can be too high for a player and they can just never live up to that hype and that really feels to be the case with Foote. He is an intriguing player, but isn’t a top-of-the-class sort of prospect anymore.
We’ll breakdown what the American-born winger did this season and what we can expect from him going forward.
- Age/Birthdate: 18 / November 29, 2000
- Birthplace: Denver, CO, USA
- Frame: 6-foot-3 / 187 lbs
- Position: Left Wing
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
- U17 WHC Silver Medal
- Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal
2018-19 Stat Rundown
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If there was one positive to this season for Foote, it’s that he got back to being a shooter, which is something that he is really good at. The Denver-born winger has a quick release to his wrist shot that allows him to exploit the little spaces goaltenders leave open.
Foote is good at finding open space on the ice, waiting for his teammates to get him the puck, and then utilizing that quick release to beat moving goaltenders. He is also very good at protecting the puck from opponents, finding just that tiniest bit of space to wind up, and then snapping it.
Part of the reason why he got back to his shooting ways was because he was thrust into a top-line role and was looked upon to be the trigger man; it was good to see him to take advantage of that opportunity and pot 36 goals.
Foote is a decent passer but relies more on simple distribution rather than being creative and deceptive.
This brings us to something about his game that also could be a bit worrisome: His ability to process the game. He can skate himself into situations where he has no play, or try to start plays that he clearly can’t complete.
When he plays a simpler game, his performance tends to be much better.
To be blunt, his skating is something that will need to improve for him to be successful at the next level. He lacks explosiveness, agility, and high-end top speed. All three aspects are adequate, but the lack of above-average ability in any facet of his skating is definitely noticeable. A drafting team will have to put focus on that aspect to his game.
In the defensive zone, I’ve found Foote to be good along the boards when engaged by an opposing defender, and he does an effective job at ensuring that the puck gets out. He is also very good at shadowing his check to ensure that there isn’t a large gap between himself (or his stick) and the opponent. However, as you’d expect given his skating, if an opponent gets a jump on him, he can struggle to keep up.
Aside from his skating and read of the play, the other major concern to his game is his consistency. From a production standpoint, Foote failed to register a point in 24 contests this season, which speaks to that lack of consistency. At times he can just disappear into the background and appear to lose his competitive edge; at times he looks like he’s just going for a leisurely skate with his family on rented ice. It can be frustrating to watch, as he has a good-enough skill set to make an impact when he is dialed in. Unfortunately, those lapses in effort cast a cloud on every viewing, because you can’t unsee it.
Although he can appear unengaged from time to time, you have to look past it to some degree and figure out if he can take his game to the next level.
Foote’s production this season was encouraging; if it hadn’t been for a strong rookie season two years ago, his year might have garnered a little more excitement, but it seems as though expectations are working against him. He led the Kelowna Rockets in goals by thirteen and finished second in points. That production gives us the following results from pGPS:
Based on the players in his cohort following his latest campaign, Foote has an expected likelihood of success of 29%. It’s a mess of matches in there but some notable names like Cody Eakin, Emerson Etem, and Troy Brouwer make appearances. Most of the matches are players that had decent NHL careers but weren’t exactly impact players, which is further illustrated in the tier chart:
I think that Foote is likely more suited for a middle-six role than the fourth line.
The point made about his stock slipping over the last three years shows up in the pGPS year-to-year readout. He broke out as a 16-year-old but slowly trended down; it doesn’t help that he is on the older side of this draft class either.
Kelowna wasn’t a great team this season after seeing quite a few players graduate, including Vancouver Canucks prospect Kole Lind and Calgary Flames prospect Dillon Dube. As a result, the Rockets leaned heavily on their top line:
Foote did a good job driving the goal share while on the ice; only he, Kyle Topping, and Leif Mattson were above the 50% on-ice goals threshold among Kelowna forwards. An encouraging sign is that most of the players that he did play with saw an uptick in GF% with him relative to away from him.
Foote represented Canada at the 2017 Hlinka tournament, picking up one goal and one assist in five games on a team that was mainly driven by players that were eligible for last year’s draft.
The recurring theme I get from watching Foote and looking at the numbers is that there are some aspects to really like about him but he also gives you serious reason to question him. Can he be a more consistent and competitive player? Will he take that step forward that we’ve been waiting for?
Ultimately, I feel like he was a victim of circumstance over the last few seasons to some extent. He burst onto the scene in 2016-17 and seized his chance while last season he played more of a middle-six role with the aforementioned Lind and Dube driving play. With those two as well as Cal Foote and Carsen Twarynski graduating to professional hockey, Nolan Foote and others were thrust into larger roles, but the team lacked the depth to slide new players into the roles that players like Foote were vacating.
Foote has been projected to be a first-round pick and could turn into be a good complimentary offensive player. He will be someone to follow next season – as it’s likely his last season in the WHL, he could get moved to a contender at some point and finally pop offensively, assuming he isn’t asked to be the main generator on the ice.
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and whl.ca.
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Nolan Foote’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Founder and analyst for NextGenHockey.ca — Contributor to The Athletic Vancouver, EliteProspects, CanucksArmy, and Canucks.com.
Father of two and decent husband.
I watch the game.