In the five seasons since he was drafted 18th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Liam Foudy never quite lived up to expectations.
So when Columbus essentially ran out of room on its active roster, Foudy was placed on waivers. He didn’t make it past the Nashville Predators, who claimed the 6-foot-2 center on Saturday, rolling the dice on Foudy’s untapped potential as a speedy, two-way forward.
“I think anytime you get a chance to add a young former first-rounder with a good skill package, you try to take a swing at it,” Predators coach Andrew Brunette said.
It’s easy to see why Foudy was attractive to first-year general manager Barry Trotz. He’s young, he’s cheap (his salary is only $762,500), he’s in the final year of his contract, he has a first-round pedigree, and if it doesn’t work out, then no harm, no foul.
Only 23, Foudy is still young, with enough promise that Trotz believes he adds real value to a roster still trying to find its way. Much like Trotz’s first waiver claim Samuel Fagemo, Foudy too, possesses a unique skillset that should mesh perfectly with Brunette’s up-tempo offensive system.
On the ice, Foudy has his strengths and weaknesses like any other player. The Toronto native is a burner, and speed is his best asset.
Not only can he out-skate just about anyone, he knows how to use his quickness in situationally specific moments like creating space for his line-mates on the attack or putting pressure on defenders in the neutral zone who are worried about Foudy blowing past them on the way to the net.
“I think I can play anywhere in the lineup for [the Predators],” Foudy said. “Speed is the biggest factor in my game, so wherever I can contribute — and this game is getting faster and faster — so I think that benefits me a lot.”
Secondary to his speed, but equally as important, is his defensive prowess. Foudy’s ability to cover a lot of ice in a short amount of time makes him a menace on both the forecheck and penalty kill, where he thrives at creating opportunities for quick counter attacks and odd-man rushes.
“They want to play a fast-paced game,” Foudy added. “Everyone I’ve talked to in the organization so far says they’re trying to be a faster team and push the pace offensively. Whenever I can do that, helping on the forecheck or flying out of the zone and pushing the [defense] back, there’s many ways speed can help.”
While there’s plenty to like about Foudy’s game (his strong hockey sense, he can control plays even while skating at top speed, his ability to process and make pinpoint passes on the rush), he’s taken heat for not developing past playing a depth role in the bottom six, and he’s been labeled as a player who can only play a north-south game.
The consensus on Foudy heading into the 2018 draft was he was an elite skater with true game-breaking speed, but the rest of the offensive skills had yet to catch up.
He entered his draft year as projected as s second-round pick, but he flew up draft boards after being moved to a top-six role following a series of trades by the London Knights.
Foudy finished with 36 goals and 68 points in 62 games and showing glimpses of a potential future top-six forward, but the experiment didn’t pan out in Columbus and it took Foudy four years to earn a full-time roster spot.
Even then, he didn’t do much with his opportunity, tallying seven goals and 14 points in 62 games. Foudy’s offensive skillset never quite caught up to his skating and puck-handling abilities, and the Blue Jackets simply couldn’t justify keeping him on the NHL roster over younger and potentially more productive players.
But with Nashville, Foudy gets a clean slate — much like everyone else on the Predators roster. Perhaps a change of scenery coupled with new line-mates and a new coaching staff is exactly what he needs to turn the corner in his development?
“His floor and his ceiling feel awfully closer together these days,” The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler said in February. “The clock is ticking on him to show he can be (more than) an up-and-down lineup guy who is the third-best player on a middle-six line or a driver on a fourth line.”
When Foudy makes his Predators debut, it’ll be interesting to note which forwards he’s paired with.
He was teammates with Gustav Nyquist for three seasons in Columbus and he played with Luke Evangelista for a season and some change with London in the OHL, so pairing him with one or both forwards could help take the edge off when he finally does hit the ice.
However, Brunette hinted on Monday the plan was to bring Foudy along slowly and let him ease into his new environment, so don’t expect to see him in either of the Predators home games this week against Vancouver on Tuesday or Toronto on Saturday.
“They don’t want to rush me through anything,” Foudy said. “Just take my time, kind of get situated with the new systems and everyone around here. There’s no rush to really force myself to get into a game right away.”
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