What do you get when you combine a Canadian professional football player with an Olympic silver-medalist sprinter?
Apparently, a couple NHL-level hockey players, including one 2020 prospect named Jean-Luc Foudy.
Who is Jean-Luc Foudy?
If you guessed the son of an Olympic sprinter would be fast, you’d be right. Foudy, a right wing/center for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, is touted as one of if not the fastest prospect available in this year’s draft. He’s definitely built more for the role of a speedy skill player, on the more slight side of NHL prospects at 5’11” and 170lbs. His older brother Liam is also known for his speed and was drafted 18th overall back in 2018 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Liam Foudy made his NHL debut this February for CBJ. He played just two games but did manage an assist in the second game against Buffalo, so expect to hear more about both brothers in the future. Jean-Luc is considered to be the ‘slightly more skilled version of his brother’, with the same deadly speed but quicker hands and a stronger hockey IQ. He translated that talent into 15 goals and 28 assists this past season in the OHL prior to the shutdown, a bit of a more well-rounded scorecard from the previous season’s 8 goals and 41 assists.
Where is Foudy Ranked?
NHL Central Scouting (North Americans): 20th
Bob McKenzie: 37th
Future Considerations: 31st
Larry Fisher: 52nd
Steve Kournianos: 45th
Dobber Prospects: 10th
Elite Prospects: 32nd
Craig Button: 49th
Andrew Forbes: 37th
What Have the Experts Said About Foudy?
The vast majority of scouting reports on Foudy do little other than sing the praises of his speed and playmaking ability.
“Incredibly strong skater with a quick fluid stride” and “NHL-level control of his edges and an impressive crossover ability” On the Forecheck
Not perfect, a little stutter here and there especially on the weight transfer to the outside edges, but man if those crossovers aren’t something to drool over.
“His game is built around his elite skating ability. If he is given some daylight, you aren’t preventing him from gaining the opposing blueline... a good playmaker who will circle the offensive zone and continue to keep his feet moving until he feels confident distributing.” Brock Otten
“a slick playmaking center who finds his teammates with exceptional vision and an outstanding passing ability. He uses his elite speed to get around defenders and find open space... he can dazzle at times in transition as he works his way through the offensive zone, zigging and zagging around the attacking zone” before he “passes the puck to the middle of the ice in the offensive zone at a near elite level.” -Tony Ferrari
Here’s a perfect example of what Foudy does best:
If you’re following along, you’ve probably noticed a pattern here. Gain the zone, dangle around the outside, pass to the middle. Gain the zone, pull up, dangle along the outside, pass to the middle. That pattern is consistent with his point distribution from last season as well— heavy on the assists, with just a few goals sprinkled in here and there. If you noticed that pattern, you’re not alone— scouts did too, and in particular, scouts for opposing teams.
Foudy started the season right where he left off last year, but team’s picked up his strong tendency to circle and look for the pass rather then drive the middle and/or take a shot. As they figured out his style, Foudy found himself boxed to the outside, the lanes for his well-known elite passes cut off, his elite footwork leading nowhere but dead ends and bad turnovers more often than not. A work in progress on the defensive end, as most young forwards are especially on offensively charged teams, turnovers are far from ideal and only highlighted the major flaws in Foudy’s game.
For many hockey players, this would be the beginning of a harsh fall in draft rankings and probably the end of any NHL career aspirations. So why is Foudy still considered a second round prospect? His skillset was worth the attention from other teams to work on shutting him down, and a good player is never out of the fight—Foudy adapted. Highlights of the later end of his season show Foudy dusted off his shot and started to surprise defenders that had grown comfortable leaving him to the outside. He also put his exceptional edge control and speed to use and started attacking the middle of the ice more—sometimes from the outside still rather than Jack Hughes -style split the defensemen down the middle, or off a pass, but it started working again nonetheless.
When Jean-Luc Foudy is flying and attacking the slot like this, he is one a hell of a player!— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) March 1, 2020
He utilizes his speed, skates at the defender, make a quick pass then jumps inside and drives to the net. One good move and it's in! #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/njIhFxsavH
Here’s a video of a full Foudy game from early this season if you’d like to see his style relatively unchallenged—
A few notables in this video:
2:22: I like the forecheck effort
5:10 and 7:25: I do not like the somewhat lax defensive efforts here
7:25: an example of “stickhandling in a phone booth” which is always fun to watch
8:15: beats half the team flat-footed and draws a penalty, then gets the primary assist on the PP goal
11:10: somewhat redeems himself for the poor defensive efforts earlier with decent coverage here
15:30: another Foudy assist
16:48: meanders down towards the defensive zone allowing a 4 on 3, though he does jump into the play once he arrives.
and a more recent one with a few Foudy highlights, including the goal also shown above and a slick shorthanded penalty shot goal:
Foudy goal at 0:05, assist at 2:10, penalty shot at 3:30, assist at 4:30 (he and Cuylle seem to have that pass to goal magic down to a science)
I tried to find some examples of the somewhat-lacking defensive effort and positioning I’ve seen mentioned, a few of which I noted above, but it’s somewhat difficult to find examples of him needing to play defense at all— his line is strong offensively and there’s only a few shifts of his in the full game video where the puck is in the defensive zone at all. His poor defensive prowess may simply be a case of underuse. That being said, he definitely does not play a 200 foot game and his face-offs leave something to be desired, so I’d definitely be looking at this kid as a prospective wing rather than a center, particularly with the Devils’ center depth as it is.
As Bill Placzek put it, Foudy is “basically a super fast perimeter player” but he’s clearly putting in the effort to improve on that, and making headway into becoming a more creative, less predictable offensive threat. The maturity required to back up and reinvent your game at a high level when the style you’ve been skating by on you whole life doesn’t work anymore is huge, and a major part of developing into an NHL-level player. When first overall guys like Hughes or other first round guys are struggling to adjust their game to a competition level that rivals them for the first time, Foudy has already had to swallow his pride and learn to adapt. His senior season struggles will definitely dampen his draft ranking regardless. If he can continue to improve his style and make the best use of his skillset, he’ll likely turn into a second or third round steal for some lucky NHL team.
As of right now, the Devils don’t really have any picks in either of these rounds. However, with the likely lack of playoff hockey resulting in some chaos surrounding conditional picks, I wouldn’t be surprised if some conditional first rounders become second or thirds as potential draft pick ‘arbitration’ is performed, as has been suggested by the league. Granted, they’ve suggested everything from arbitrating conditional picks for a June draft to having Bugs Bunny just pull names out of a hat on the moon in August so let’s all just take everything regarding draft picks with a grain of salt.
Are Foudy’s OHL struggles too much of a turn-off to make him worth the risk, or would you take a chance on him? Does adjusting your game to challenges show maturity, or just that you wouldn’t make it against NHL competition? What round would you pick him in if he was available and assuming we have a pick to use in all 7? Leave your comments below and thanks for reading!