As the team continues to sort through its roster situation during a disappointing season, several players are standing out as future pieces of this team. Today we’ll take a look at one struggling player who was once thought about as a potential core piece: former first round pick Liam Foudy.
Originally taken by the Blue Jackets with the 18th overall selection at the 2018 NHL Draft, Foudy was always considered a bit of a project – notably, he lacked the scoring touch you typically see from players drafted in this range. However, as such a high pick, the hope was that he could become a middle-six player for the club, who would bring speed and two-way play to the lineup.
Simply put, he just hasn’t developed as expected; but in hindsight, that’s probably not all that surprising. In his draft season, Foudy scored 24 goals and 40 points through 65 games with the London Knights (OHL). Decent numbers, but the kind of production that you usually see from players taken in the second or third round. GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting staff saw enough potential here to take a shot, and had star defenseman Seth Jones announce the pick in Dallas.
Foudy spent the next season back in the OHL, where his productivity did improve – he scored 36 goals and 68 points in just 62 games – then spent one more shortened year with London in 2019-20, posting 28 goals and 68 points in just 45 games. The COVID pauses killed the balance of his junior career, forcing him to wait until his pro debut the next fall.
He joined the Jackets that August and played for the team in the playoff bubble. In 10 games, he scored a goal and added an assist. It certainly seemed like he was trending up in a big way, even earning some trust from John Tortorella. It seemed that with some seasoning in the AHL, he could develop that scoring touch a little more and be on the NHL roster in no time.
But that scoring touch has just never come along. Through 41 career AHL games, he has a modest 10 goals and 35 points. In 46 career NHL games, he has 0 goals and just 8 points (his goal and assist in the playoff bubble do not count towards his career totals). Injuries have certainly not helped his situation – nor did the COVID pauses.
The really concerning thing here is that Foudy isn’t even making a case for himself with the team vastly short-staffed due to its current injury situation. A former first round pick who has to scratch and claw for his ice time, should be making something happen each and every shift. But I find myself having to actively search for Foudy when his line is on the ice.
His season high for ice time (13:23) came in his first game of the season on October 23 against the New York Rangers. He was effective that night, scoring two assists and a +2 rating. But since that game, his play has fallen off and his ice time has dwindled to the point where he’s seen less than 7 minutes on two occasions; on most nights playing just around 10 minutes.
Since that first game, in 18 appearances he has just one assist and has been a minus player on the stat sheet 11 times (cumulative -14 in that time). When you’re only playing 10 minutes a night, it’s alarming to see that you’re on the ice for essentially one even strength goal against each game.
That’s not entirely his fault – this team is awful. But at 22 years old, as a former first round pick on a team that is pieced together with spare parts, you should be finding some way to produce positive results. Foudy just has not done that to this point in his young career, and it seems like time for a change. Even when he had a solid game (Thursday against the Islanders), he played just 10:16. There’s no trust from the coaching staff.
If any player needs time in the AHL to get his confidence going, Foudy is a great candidate. But his contract status means that he would require waivers to be sent down – which is probably the only reason he’s been kept on the roster thus far. The team doesn’t want to lose him for nothing; though his play so far makes it seem like he would pass through with no problem, it’s still a risk. Losing a young asset that you once thought so highly of, is never appealing.
For these reasons, the best outcome here might be the Jackets taking whatever draft pick they can get in return for him. Things aren’t working here, and a change of scenery might help Liam get his career back on track. This kind of move would also free up a roster spot for the team to slot in another player that they can begin to evaluate at the NHL level.
Whether someone sees him as a throw-in to a larger deal, or the trade is straight up, it’s hard to see this relationship continuing beyond this season. Liam simply hasn’t done enough to separate himself from the pack here, and a move would not be surprising once the team starts seeing players return from injury.