The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first rounder in 2019 (and second Foote to join the organization) makes his debut to Raw Charge’s T25U25, coming in at 13. Nolan is one of the bigger prospects in the Lightning pipeline and he brings several enticing skills to the table. On a pretty underwhelming Kelowna Rockets team last season, Foote was primarily their offensive catalyst. As a draft-eligible player, Foote led the Rockets in goal scoring by a wide margin and finished tied for second in points.
Strangely enough, despite Foote landing at 13th on our countdown, not one Raw Charge writer ranked him there on their individual list. Still, the general consensus seems to be that he’s at least one of the Lightning’s more promising, recently-drafted prospects. As far as the masthead, Geo had Foote ranked the highest at 8, while Matt had him lowest at 15. Obviously right now, there’s a lot of debate and uncertainty regarding the likelihood of Foote’s ability to be an impact player at the NHL, which explains the large gap in reader rankings (as high as 4th and as low as 24th).
The Advanced Numbers
Foote’s 63 points in 66 games are slightly underwhelming for a first-round draft pick, especially for a prospect with a late-birthday. However, he was plagued by a wrist injury for a part of the season, which impacted his ability to produce offense. A lethal weapon on the man-advantage, Foote scored nearly half of his season’s goals (36) on the powerplay (17). However, Foote doesn’t only produce there; in fact, 26 (52%) of Foote’s primary points came at even-strength.
The Scouting Report
The hallmark of Foote’s game is his ability to finish. His heavy wrist shot features a quick, almost instantaneous release, but he can also unload one-time bombs from the hash marks when required. He can pick corners of the net with ease and never hesitates to shoot the puck. Foote uses his big frame to protect the puck as he drives into the offensive zone, as well as in puck battles along the boards. He can also be an effective net-front screen.
Foote is an intelligent player who can find the open areas of the ice easily, pressure defenders into making mistakes, and create turnovers by intercepting or cutting down passes. Although he makes his mark on the powerplay, Foote is a reliable penalty killer and works hard in his own end. His compete level is never in question; Foote is always engaged whenever he is on the ice, whether it’s pressuring down low on the forecheck, or getting back to help defend in his own end.
The only thing holding Foote back is his skating. Right now, he uses his body to protect the puck and drive around defenders to compensate for not being able to blow past them with speed. Like a lot of larger prospects, Foote’s skating lacks agility and fluidity. He has strong edges and his top-end speed has improved greatly (to the point where it’s definitely not a liability anymore), but he lacks the two-step explosiveness and acceleration that would make him an offensive threat at the professional level.
So, what’s next for Foote? Well, he played remarkably well at the World Junior Summer Showcase (producing at both even-strength and on the powerplay), leading Canada in scoring. He was an active player in the defensive zone. His skating looked a lot more natural, and he even showed off his improvements with a couple of puck rushes and backchecks.
Foote will return to Kelowna for another junior season. Aside from putting up more points (and hopefully avoiding injuries), the World Juniors will be on his radar. With his showcase performance, he’ll likely be named to Team WHL at the Canada-Russia series in November. Depending on how he plays there, along with his regular season with the Rockets, we will hopefully see Foote earn an invitation to Canada’s World Juniors selection camp. Best case scenario, he makes the team and wins a medal. Maybe he gets traded to a contending WHL team when he returns and goes on a deep playoff run.
Although I’m really getting ahead of myself here, the possibilities are endless for Foote in his final year of junior eligibility. There are so many positives to his game. He’s an excellent offensive catalyst and defensively sound. He plays on both special teams in Kelowna. He never takes a night off. All Foote has to do is prove that he can continue to excel offensively and demonstrate that he’s made the necessary improvements to his skating that the Lightning are hoping to see. If that happens, Nolan will be well on his way to following in Cal’s Foote-steps to the pros.