As much attention will be paid to what the New Jersey Devils do with their first round and two second round draft picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the rest of it cannot be ignored. Yes, the likelihood of finding a NHL player - never mind a very good one to become a part of the team's core - is reduced beyond the second round. However, being able to identify future NHL players in the third round and beyond turns good drafts great, salvages otherwise drafts, and may hasten re-builds. It is for those reasons why our annual series of prospect profiles go beyond the top two rounds.
Today's profile is a good example of someone who could be available in the third round. Or possibly the second depending on how much a team likes what he has done. It's about left winger Erik Foley, let's learn more about him.
Who is Erik Foley?
According to Elite Prospects, Foley was born on June 30, 1997, which makes him one of the younger prospects available for this year's draft. Originally from Massachusetts, Foley suited up for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League last season. He shoots left and has played left wing. As far as size, well, he stands at 5'11" and 172 pounds per EP. He is listed at Central Scouting Services - who ranked him 51st among North American skaters - at 6'0" and 185 pounds. I can believe he got beefier during the season, the height isn't the issue. Despite the discrepancy in size, he played a big role for the RoughRiders as he led the team in scoring. Here are his stats at EP:
As you can see, Foley also made it to the United States team that took bronze in last summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament. The USNTDP typically doesn't attend the Hlinka, but three points in five games isn't a bad showing, especially for someone who played mostly prep school hockey in 2013-14. A near-point per game pace in the USHL regular season is a very good showing; although I'm not a fan of the fact he also led the RoughRiders in penalty minutes. In any case, Foley was very productive in Cedar Rapids and he looks to play at the next level. Foley committed to Providence College and he will begin playing against better players next season. But first, he will be drafted.
What Others Say About Erik Foley
Let's start with Elite Prospects, where Curtis Joe has a short blurb on Foley:
An offensive winger who knows how to take opposing players out of the play. Can play an agitative game, but is at his best when recognizing opportunities and taking advantage of them. A good skater who has the right amount of skill to do what he can to help his team every night; on the other hand, does not possess the biggest body, so can be ineffective in his role at times. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)
I wasn't surprised to read that last sentence. It's not easy trying to be physical when you're listed at 5'11" and 172 pounds. Still, plenty of boxes are checked here: offensive player, good skater, amount of skill greater than zero.
There isn't a lot - yet - about Foley, but what I did find was that Jeff Cox at SBN College Hockey focused on him back in September at the USA Hockey CCM All-American Prospects Game. It features quotes from Foley and his prep school coach Gerry Dineen. This particular section of the post stuck out to me:]
"I'm definitely a guy who has to work down low. I'm not really a skilled guy. I work below the goal line. That's where my bread and butter is. I like grinding down low and getting pucks out in front," said Foley.
"He's very athletic and tough. He has excellent strength and balance. Erik is one of those players who is incredibly difficult to knock off the puck and he's really good on the wall, especially from the dots down in the offensive zone," said Tabor Academy coach Gerry Dineen.
One thing that scouts will notice the more they watch Foley play is his deceptive speed, his offensive instincts and his heavy shot despite his lack of elite hands and footwork that say a Jack Eichel or Jeremy Bracco exhibit.
"He has been able to finish at every level. He has a pro release on his shot. The sky is the limit," said Dineen of his former player.
The post goes on to include that Foley says he knew he had to get better on defense and his committment to Providence. But this section has both the player and one of his coaches state his strengths. That is, his strength. It's remarkable that someone listed at 5'11" and 172 pounds is strong on the puck and likes to play in the "dirty areas." I suppose that's 172 pounds of muscle. It'll be something to see whether he can do that at the next level against more developed - in terms of body and hockey - players in college.
Ryan Kennedy noted Erik Foley twice with his prospect articles at The Hockey News. Last July, Kennedy highlighted a number of players from their U-18 all star game that led to USA's roster for the Hlinka tournament. Foley caught his eye, though he didn't have as much as to say about him than others. Here's what Kennedy wrote:
The Providence College commit is a dangerous offensive weapon and he plays with jam. Early on in the game he masterfully tipped a point shot that just missed the net. Foley played for Tabor Academy and USHL Cedar Rapids last year.
More recently, Kennedy featured Foley in his April 21 Prospect Hot List article. There's something in that article that's worth noting with respect to how he's viewed among scouts and how he was used at Cedar Rapids:
Foley is the type of player that scouts love to talk about – but not for too long, because they want him as a sleeper pick in the draft. Athletic, competitive and skilled, the United States League rookie has some great attributes.
Cedar Rapids had a big rookie cohort up front this season and every time coach Mark Carlson put Foley up with veteran scorers Andrew Ogilvie and Jiri Fronk, good things happened. So Foley went from prep school at Tabor Academy in Massachusetts to the top line on a USHL team in one season.
" ‘Ogie’ and Jiri are two high-end players," Foley said. "So it made the transition easier for me."
The first part of that makes me wonder whether he'll even be available in the third round. The second part of that makes me wonder how much of his production is a function of playing with two experienced players rather than his skill. Per EP, Ogilvie and Fronk finished just behind Foley in points. I don't think he would get featured in Kennedy's article, or ranked in the top 60 among North American skaters by Central Scouting Services if he was a passenger on a line. Just that
Lastly, I'll let Erik Foley have the last word via this audio interview he did with The Pipeline Show on December 6. On the show, Foley discusses the transition to the USHL. Moreover, he explained his frame; he said was bigger than 172 pounds and lists his own height at "5'11.5" or 5'11.75" on a good day." He calls his own game like a power forward, consistent to what he has said throughout this past season of hockey.
A Little Video
There isn't a lot of video on Foley specifically outside of the USHL's Youtube channel. Fortunately, they - the people behind the USHL Youtube channel - made a short video profiling Foley.
An Opinion of Sorts
When looking up what I could find about Foley, I was surprised that a 5'11", 172 pound player could be an effective power forward in the USHL. That I learned from Foley himself that he's had more weight made it seem more sensible. I could better envision him doing that at the junior level. I get that strength comes from more than simply height and weight, but size isn't teachable and at some point, the size is going to win a board battle or determine whether someone's getting knocked off the puck. Fortunately, Foley appears to have more tools than just being strong. Whether they're refined enough or simply good enough when he goes up against bigger, older, and better players in college remains to be seen. How he'll adjust is also a crucial concern, one that applies to all prospects but especially in Foley's case. He may be able to power through juniors in the USHL, but it'll be different in Hockey East. How a scout thinks he'll adjust will make the difference as to when he'll be drafted.
My general feeling is that this is the sort of prospect a team drafts, tells him to go to college, check on him regularly, and see what happens after four years. Likely a pro contract to at least play in the minors, presuming he does decent in college. The Devils are certainly not averse to that route and it's not a bad one to take. They haven't really done it with power forward-like players in quite some time. There was a point early last decade where the Devils would pick a big forward in the hopes they could be that player and they whiffed on each one. That was the past and Foley's at least different by not being a large-framed forward with skating issues.
I don't think it would be a waste of a third rounder to pick an offensively productive winger that's got a little more than just one skill. I would be fine with Foley getting selected by the Devils. I like that he can skate and shoot to go with his size, and while he played with experienced players he out-produced them and earned a spot to play in the Hlinka tournament. Simply, he's got some game I would like to see develop at the next level. It would fit the Devils' need and there won't be any rush to his development; Foley can stay with the Friars for as long as necessary. Would he be the ideal pick, I cannot say; but it wouldn't be a bad move at all. Whether he'll be available is another matter; Kennedy's April column suggests that some teams may like him enough to get him late in the second round. 51st among North American skaters would put him around that late second/early third designation. At that point of the draft, it's more important to take players the scouts favor than what the rankings suggest. The Devils scouts may like him, but so will other teams. Either way, Foley's not going to college without someone owning his rights.
I wouldn't be surprised if Erik Foley gets further notice as a potential sleeper pick in the coming weeks. What do you make of him given what's out there now? Do you think he'll have to adjust at the college level after being a power forward with Cedar Rapids? What about him as a prospect intrigues you? Will he be available for the Devils in the third round, and if so, would you think it's a good pick if Devils drafted him? Please leave your answers, thoughts, and other findings on Foley in the comments. Thank you for reading.