Callan Foote is projected to be drafted below where the Lightning will pick, but if they trade back, he could become an option.

The first round of the 2017 draft is full of intriguing defensive draft prospects and Callan Foote is one of them. The head of the class seems to be forming around Cole Makar, Miro Heiskanen, Timothy Liljegren, and Juuso Valimaki. If any of those four players fall to 14, I would expect the Lighting to pick them. Erik Brannstrom is another player climbing the rankings who could also be a viable selection at 14.

But after that, there aren’t many reasonable options on defense that high in the round. After all, if all of those players are selected, that would suggest that a forward of value will be available.

After those five players, another group of three defenders are slated to go in the second half of the round: Nic Hague, Henri Jokiharju, and Foote. Of all the defenders in the first round, Foote might be the safest and most traditional option. He has ideal NHL size and has produced in the WHL. He also has pedigree as the son of former NHLer Adam Foote.

Future Considerations describes him as:

Another kid with NHL bloodlines as Adam Foote’s son plays a rough-and-tumble, minute-munching game with a bit of offensive upside…he is huge and incredibly mobile for his size…can look a tad sluggish when quickly forced to elevate his tempo, but overall, he is very smooth on the ice… he has an incredibly long stick that he uses to consistently disrupt plays in every defensive scenario…an incredibly tough defenseman to beat in the defensive zone who is only going to get better…is also very capable with the puck as he cradles it smoothly in transition and hits on his passes…has some dangling ability, utilizing his reach and smooth mobility…has a quick, accurate slap shot…has poise with the puck, not making bad decisions when pressured…plays a physical game due to his natural size and strength, but could be a little more abrasive…big, elegant skater who distributes the puck at a high level and can play in all situations…impressive NHL upside.

The only way Foote is likely to come into play for the Lighting is if they trade back in the first round. In that scenario, he might be a viable option. We know the Lighting have a fondness for big right handed defenders. Andrej Sustr has been a staple on the blue line in Tampa for the last few seasons. They also traded for Erik Cernak at the trade deadline. In fact, Cernak’s draft profiles from 2015 are somewhat similar to Foote’s.

If the Lightning do trade back in the first round, the two most likely defensive options seem to be Foote and Jokiharju. Because of that, here is a graph comparing their performance in the WHL this past season.


For more context, this is how Future Considerations describes Jokiharju:

A smart, shifty and skilled two-way rearguard…plays a steady game with a high end skillset…confidence with the puck and is a creative playmaker…skates well with solid speed and agility…strong transitional footwork…great panic threshold and withstands pressure by outmaneuvering opponents and digging his feet in withstand physical pressure…moves quick and decisively…has vision to hit his pass up ice with consistency, handling the puck well…not overly aggressive on the offensive line but assesses risk and will jump in to keep pucks alive or enter the zone to lead a rush…shoots the puck effectively; not breaking velocity records but generating rebounds with his accurate wrist shot and consistently connecting on the one timer…needs some strength as he can get outmuscled…one of those guys who seemingly never comes off the ice…has the potential to be a high end, pace controlling defender at the next level.

My bias is definitely for a player like Jokiharju who possesses elite speed and is a danger on the rush. He’s much smaller at 5’11” and just 170 lbs but he’s more of a puck mover and in my opinion, a better fit for the contemporary NHL style. However, based on pure production, it’s difficult to argue with Foote’s performance.

Foote is near the top of the league in primary assists and impact on goal share. He out-performs Jokiharju by every metric except goal scoring. Without better data, I can’t definitively say why that might be. It could be that Foote doesn’t get many shots from dangerous areas. It could also just be an unlucky year in shooting percentage.

Interestingly, Foote measures out as having a very low quality of teammates. Given how difficult his competition was, that suggests that he was playing difficult minutes, which makes his results more impressive.

While I have some concerns about using early picks on defenders who aren’t great skaters and don’t project to be as impactful in the offensive zone, Foote has established himself as a clear first round prospect. And if the Lightning do slide back in the first round in order to acquire more picks, they very well could have Foote as a serious option on their draft board.

Statistics:

Highlights


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com