The Lightning have made their first selection in the first round of the NHL draft since 2017. And once again, they’ve selected a player from the Foote family. Left winger Nolan Foote, the brother of Cal Foote who plays defense in Syracuse, is the latest addition to the Lightning’s prospect pipeline.
In our consolidated rankings, Foote landed in the middle of the second round. It’s hard to look at this pick and not feel like it’s a reach. The Lightning don’t have another pick until the third round so if he was highest on their board, it makes sense for them to select him. But it also seems like this was an opportunity to trade back. Even if they lost the trade, they still probably could have gotten landed Foote and added another mid-round pick.
Something important to consider is that in this 25-40 draft range, there’s often a lot less separation between players. Bob McKenzie mentioned on the NBCSN broadcast that two of the ten scouts they polled had Foote in the tail end of the first round with the other eight having second round grades on him. He noted that most of those scouts had him in the 32-40 range which lead to his ranking of 38th.
While this may feel like a reach, it’s not out of the question for the Lightning scouting staff to have felt like he was on the higher end of this draft range and thus, selected him instead of risking not getting the guy they liked by trading down. His hockey sense and compete level are two traits that we know the Lightning scouting staff value highly, and he is strong in both of those areas
As it is, Foote will be the headliner for this draft class. He’ll join his brother in the Lightning organization and we could see both in the NHL together in a few years. For more in depth scouting reports, let’s go to the experts:
The younger brother of Syracuse Crunch defenseman and most recent Lightning first-round pick Cal Foote has rediscovered his scoring touch this season. He’s got a quick release that makes his heavy wrist shot more dangerous. He’s also a very intelligent player who can find open areas on the ice as well as cause pressure and force turnovers on the forecheck. Foote uses his size to his advantage in puck battles at both ends of the ice and as a screen in front of the net. His skating has gotten better this season and his edgework is strong, but he’ll have to work on his speed to make the next step.
Nolan Foote is a trigger man for a power play, with a heavy shot that can finish plays. He has good vision and overall hockey sense, but the key to his game is his ability and willingness to shoot the puck. He’s a big man who competes well for pucks. Given his shooting skill, he might have taken too many outside chances when he could have driven the net, but he can attack when he wants to. My concern with Foote is whether he can create enough of his own chances at the pro level. His feet are below-average and, while he has puck skills, I never really saw him create space consistently with his skill.
Hockey Prospect Black Book:
Foote has some areas that project him to play at a high level, but also possesses some major holes. Nolans skating is a pretty substantial weakness, he really struggles with acceleration and does not have very good lateral mobility. His top speed is average but he really takes a while to get going. This all limited a lot of his game to beneath the ringette line where a his strengths shone through. Foote is very physically strong and when protecting the puck was extremely difficult to take the puck from. This allowed him to showcase his offensive senses, threading passes through traffic and using his points when he drew extra attention. Foote also showed the ability to put his defender on his hip and assertively drive the puck to the net. Footes standout tool is his shot which was one of the strongest in the whole league. He gets a ton of velocity on his shots and excelled at picking corners, Foote could really snipe it off the rush when defensemen backed off and showed a lot of deception in his release. Another real positive is his compete level, Nolan battled night in and night out, back checking and banging for pucks on the board. Had a lot of intensity and showed natural leadership on the ice raising his game when his team needed it. If his skating develops Foote has a lot of intriguing pro tools.
One thing that sticks out in his evaluation is his skating weakness. Another Lightning prospect had similar knocks about skating in Brayden Point. One big difference though was that Point was fast and already had above average speed. He just needed to clean up his skating mechanics and get stronger. Foote already has size and the team must have faith in Barb Underhill and her magic to help Foote get his skating in order. If he can do that, he has the hockey sense and compete level to be a successful NHLer.
Foote fits into the Lightning system as another forward that can slide into the middle six eventually. He brings a bigger game than a lot of the Lightning’s prospects and is also an older prospect in this draft class. Like brother Cal, he’ll only need one more year in the WHL before he is eligible to join the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. The Lightning could potentially be graduating a number of forward prospects in the next year or two and Foote’s quick progression to the AHL will help fill that void. At 6’3”, he joins Taylor Raddysh as the tallest Lightning forward prospect and with another 10 pounds on his frame, he would be one of the heaviest as well.
The Lightning have not often targeted forwards with size, especially in the first round, but they did a few years ago with Brett Howden. Foote adds some size to the forward pipeline. Even if he never realizes his full potential as a middle six forward, he can still present value in the bottom six in the NHL in the future with his size and work ethic.