The Toronto Maple Leafs are clearly in the market for a right-shooting defenceman. The back end is likely to be a priority this offseason, and the team already boasts Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner from the left side. If the Leafs seek to fill this need with their first-round draft pick, Kelowna Rockets defender Callan (Cal) Foote will likely be their selection.
Foote offers good size at 6’4”, and uses his physical presence to make life difficult for opposing forwards. He’s your typical risk-averse defender, and he is fairly good passer for a player of his size. He’s not as physical as his father (former NHL defenceman Adam Foote), but his strength and defensive awareness provide him with plenty of potential in his own end.
Although he is fairly skilled for such a big guy, this is not a player you would expect to carry the puck in for a zone entry. His mobility will be a question mark throughout his development, and he must prove that he can keep up at the NHL level. In addition, he does not represent much of a goal-scoring threat, as he scored just 6 goals this season while playing on the third-highest scoring team in the WHL. Ultimately, you must be quite confident in Foote’s defensive potential to select him at #17.
Cal Foote By The Numbers
Draft Year Scoring- CHL Defenceman
Foote owns a late 1998 birthday, and will have a solid chance at making the 2017-2018 Canadian World Junior team this December. According to this tweet from Jeremy Crowe of NHL Numbers, Foote’s point production stands out on the powerplay rather than at 5 on 5. While his steady presence is an asset on the penalty kill, he will need to work on his shot in order to get powerplay time at higher levels.
Interestingly enough, all four defenders in this chart have a late 1998 birthday, making them among the older players in this draft. Foote has not shown much offensive upside in the WHL, but could develop into a solid shutdown defender if he proves that he can keep up at the NHL level. While his assist total is quite impressive, both Hague and Valimaki have scored goals at a much higher rate.
A Glimpse of Cal Foote In Action
Showing Off His Hands In Tight:
Ability To Jump Into The Play:
Secondary Assist At Top Prospects Game:
Quarterbacking The Powerplay:
The Big Picture
If Foote’s development goes well, he would become the perfect addition to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now here’s the problem: he’s only 18, and there is next to no chance that he would be ready to step into a big role on a NHL team next season. Surely, the Leafs should look to fill this need well before Foote becomes NHL ready, rather than solely trying to address this issue through the draft.
Foote is a fairly good passer with size, strength, and defensive potential. However, in my draft rankings, he simply will not be the best player on the board at 17th overall. The best defenceman available at that spot will likely shoot left-handed, as Juuso Valimaki, Robin Salo, Erik Brannstrom, and Nicolas Hague could all be available.
In addition, the Leafs should seriously consider taking a forward if they believe the player is in a higher tier. If you want the Leafs to take the “best defenceman available” approach, you may end up with a similar situation to selecting Travis Dermott over Sebastian Aho, as the Leafs did in 2015.
All in all, Foote remains a good prospect who deserves to be taken in the first round. When we think in terms of expected value, we need to consider each player’s potential to drive play and become a standout player at the NHL level. While Foote certainly boasts plenty of potential in his own right, I would look for more mobility on the back end.