Hot on the heels of a strong 2017-18 debut for Valentin Zykov, the Hurricanes announced on Sunday that Warren Foegele had been called up from Charlotte. The move nearly completes my list from March 19 with five initiatives for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. More significantly, the move suggests that someone at 1400 Edwards Mill Road might actually read Canes and Coffee which suggests that maybe Jofa goalie helmets at practice are not as much of a pipe dream as originally thought.
A brief diversion to applaud Valentin Zykov
Back to Zykov for a second…The sample size of four games is too small to draw any definitive conclusions, but it is fair to say that Valentin Zykov has been nothing short of phenomenal in three games since being recalled. After a quiet warm up game, he has two goals and two assists in a pair of games playing on the Hurricanes top scoring line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. He brings a power forward and finishing element to a line with two skilled playmakers and thus far the result has been very productive. He likely will not continue at a 100+ point pace, but at the same time, it is not inconceivable that Zykov proves capable of leveraging his tryout to become a regular at the NHL level.
Warren Foegele – pre-AHL
Up next is Warren Foegele. His ‘Pipeline’ articles can be found HERE.
Perfectly timed, Foegele is the first player featured in a series of ‘Charlotte Checkers check ins’ with from the rink updates on AHL-level prospects’ 2017-18 seasons in with the Checkers.
Foegele has a special place in my heart in terms of the Hurricanes prospect pool. Literally the first article that I wrote after the official launch of Canes and Coffee on July 29, 2015 reviewed the prospect camp from that summer. In the article, I latched onto Foegele and his style of play and intensity level very early on whenn he was still a mostly unknown mid-round draft pick with a low probability of ever reaching the NHL. I pegged him as the second best forward in camp second only to some undersized European kid named Sebastian Aho in my prospect camp write up. I also went out on a limb and compared him to some combination of Nathan Gerbe (for every shift tenacity), Justin Williams (for his ability to be a royal pain to play against on the forecheck and defending in the neutral zone) and potentially Erik Cole (if he could add 15-20 pounds to his frame and convert more of his puck-hounding into physical force).
Since climbing onto my radar, Foegele has charted a circuitous but rapid path upward. His starting itself was unique in that he was drafted as a player out of Saint Andrew’s College prep school in Aurora, Ontario instead of the usual Canadian juniors leagues. Foegele then played NCAA hockey at the University of New Hampshire for the 2014-15 season after being drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the third round of the 2014 NHL draft, but he left New Hampshire early in his sophomore season in 2015-16 to join the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League. To say that he excelled would be an understatement. Foegele was utilized in a defensive/checking line role, but also scored in bunches too. He adjusted quickly and put up 48 points in 52 games in 2015-16 in the OHL.
He then used his successful 2015-16 as a springboard into an even better 2016-17 season. He started the season by coming surprisingyl close to making the NHL roster out of training camp. In outlasting a number of other players, he played his way up 4-5 slots higher than he started training camp and no doubt made an impression with the organization. Once he returned to juniors just in time for the start of the season, Foegele put up 63 points in 61 games in a split season between Kingston and Erie who acquired him at the trade deadline. He saved the best for last playing in a defensive role on a deep Erie Otters team but also posting 26 points in 22 playoff games en route to the Otters’ Mastercard Memorial Cup berth. Along the way, Foegele won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award given the most valuable player of the OHL playoffs.
Warren Foegele as an AHL rookie with the Charlotte Checkers in 2017-18
Because Foegele was initially drafted as an inbound NCAA player, the Hurricanes maintained his draft rights past the normal two years for Canadian junior players. Foegele played one full season at the University of New Hampshire and then two in juniors with the second season as an overage player. He was signed toward the end of the 2016-17 season and slated to be a rookie professional with the Checkers in 2017-18.
And what a rookie season it has been. He started with a bang scoring early and collecting a few shorthanded goals. Despite receiving almost nothing for power play ice time, Foegele currently leads AHL rookies with 26 goals including four shorthanded tallies. In terms of role, he has picked up right where he left off in the OHL. His brand of hockey is an aggressive-skating, defense-first brand of hockey. He is a handful on the forecheck, makes a mess in the neutral zone for the opposition and is solid regular on the penalty kill. But as demonstrated by his 26 goals, his defensive play does not come at the expense of scoring.
Just like in juniors, Warren Foegele has adapted to the AHL seemingly instantly and in the process has earned consideration for NHL ice time.
Warren Foegele’s skill set and potential role
The core of Foegele’s skill set projects well as a solid third or fourth line checking forward who can kill penalties. Per my initial impressions from the summer of 2015, Foegele is strong in all three zones without the puck, and it is not so much in a Victor Rask positionally sound kind of way but more in an Erik Cole or young Justin Williams way of being a major disturbance.
At a minimum, he projects to be a Kevyn Adams type who is solid defensively, a key component of a strong penalty kill and with enough breakaway finishing ability to provide decent depth scoring from a bottom half of the roster forward slot. But while other players project to have higher-end scoring ability, Foegele has made consecutive jumps and scored at a high level in his first year in a new league twice now. Don’t sleep on the possibility that perhaps he is more offensively than originally thought. If his offense continues to carry forward, Foegele’s skill set reminds me very much of the 2005-06 version of Justin Williams who excelled as a neutral zone puck hound on a checking first line next to Rod Brind’Amour but who also produced more like a scoring line player with 30-goal seasons in both 2005-06 and 2006-07 in a Hurricanes uniform. Finally, if he can add 15-ish pounds of muscle mass to his 6 feet 2 inch frame, his game has the potential to be more like Erik Cole’s game that did not just hound pucks on the forecheck and in the neutral but also had the potential for thunderous hits that made opposing players prone to unload pucks early for safety reasons.
Foegele also figures to become a regular on the penalty kill if he sticks at the NHL level.
Just like with Valentin Zykov, my hope is that Warren Foegele will be put into a top 9 role with significant potential to make an impression and be evaluated for an NHL role for the 2018-19 season. I see two angles on that. First, I would like to see him slotted at left wing either on Jordan Staal’s line or Victor Rask’s line. With McGinn/Staal/Williams playing well, Peters understandably might not be willing to break them up, but that aside I think the best evaluation for Foegele could be gained by playing him alongside Staal. Does Foegele have good positional hockey sense or is he just a heat seeking missile on the forecheck? How does he hold up playing against the elite NHL scoring lines that Staal plays the majority of his minutes against? Can he produce offensively at the NHL level? Second is that I hope Foegele is inserted immediately onto the penalty kill. He possesses the potential to excel in this role with the aggressive style that Steve Smith wants from his forwards. (As an aside, that is where Kruger missed.) And Foegele also has breakaway speed (like Nordstrom) but also some finishing (like Kevyn Adams) such that he could be a shorthanded threat. That is significant in terms of collecting a few momentum-turning goals, but the other thing that shorthanded threats do is force point me to be more honest defensively despite being on the power play.
The potential for painful regrets?
With Zykov bursting onto the scene and playing a leading role in a couple wins, I figure we are simply a three or four-game outburst from Warren Foegele with wins included away from really, really regretting the fact that the team did not reach to Charlotte when it was still in the playoff hunt but sputtering mightily about a month ago.
But in the name of enjoying what is left of the 2017-18, having interesting things to watch and building (hopefully) legitimate optimism for the 2018-19 season, here is hoping that Foegele’s NHL debut follows right in the path of Valentin Zykov.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who else is enjoying the AHL call up story line in a big way as we ride out the last few weeks of the 2017-18 season?
2) What are your expectations for Warren Foegele?
3) What role/slot would you like to see him used in for his NHL debut and audition?