The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge writing staff. Four writers, plus a special guest, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
When the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Cal Foote 14th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry draft, there were some that felt is was a stretch. He wasn’t talked about as one of the three of four best defenders in the draft, and he became a prospect that many fans fell out of love with as the season went on.
Cal Foote is a big, strong, right-shooting defender that skates well and is the prototype of an NHLer. The son of two-time Stanley Cup Champion Adam Foote, Cal plays a game very similar to his father’s, but he’s probably got a little more offensive up side.
Foote is a guy that plays a very strong, very consistent two-way game. His hockey sense is outstanding, and his ability to read a play quicker than most, which leads to outstanding passing ability. Foote is great at finding his teammates on the breakout and is able to provide high-end playmaking skills from the blue line in the offensive zone. He’ll never score all that often, but he has the skill set to be the setup guy leading a top powerplay unit.
Hockey is all Cal Foote knows. His younger brother (and teammate) Nolan have grown up having NHLers to learn from their whole lives. Aside from learning from their father’s long career, the Footes had Avalanche forward Matt Duchene living with the family as he was developing in the Colorado minor hockey leagues. Watching Duchene develop as a rookie living in their house can do nothing but help Foote gain perspective on what it takes to be a young NHLer.
Cal Foote was seen as a safe pick by many draft observers - he’s going to play in the NHL, he just might not have the blue-chip upside that you’d expect from someone selected in the top half of the first round. There are a lot of people that think he will top out as a 3rd or fourth defender in the NHL. I disagree with this assertion.
While I do see Foote as having a higher floor than most, I truly think he has the potential to be a top-pairing defender in the NHL for a decade. Some claim Foote had a disappointing season in Kelowna — this is something I really don’t understand. Foote spent the season playing a major role for his Kelowna team, he was the only draft-eligible defender to play for team WHL during the Canada/Russia Series, and he trailed only Conor Timmins in primary assists among draft eligible CHL defenders.
Though some wanted more from him during the regular season, I fell in love with Foote during the WHL playoffs. He was one of Kelowna’s best players and elevated his game to what scouts expected from him all season.
This season is going to be spent in Kelowna working on his accuracy from the point, as well as better utilizing his physical gifts. He’ll look to be a big part of Team Canada at the World Juniors in December and will look to cement himself as one of the best defenders in the CHL during what is likely to be his last junior season.
A year from now, Cal Foote will be working towards the start of his professional hockey career. Most will expect a season or two in the AHL with the Crunch before he is ready for the NHL, but I’m not so sure. Foote is already built like an NHL hockey player. He’s strong, fast, and though he may not show it enough for some people, he can play with a bit of a nasty streak. Depending on roster openings, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to Cal Foote in the Lightning lineup on opening night of the 2018-19 season. At the very least, you’ll see him up in the top-5 to 10 on this list next summer.