The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a bit of unfamiliar territory - they have a first round pick this year. Though there is a lot of talent in the organization right now, and even some young talent, there are two glaring organizational weaknesses: young center depth and prospect right-handed defensemen. The Pens don't have much of either categories with NHL potential right now.
And while it's never a good idea in the NHL to draft solely for need, some things never go out of style or can't be valued enough. One major item would be puck moving defensemen, specifically right-handed defensemen. As the draft ticked on, we saw an opportunity to grab a player who could be blue-chip asset, so we had the Pensgive up their 3rd rounder to move up and get him. (And we recouped a high 5th rounder too, in order to retain a draft pick and chance to find someone else).
Mock draft, fake trade: Pittsburgh sends 1st round pick (31st overall) + 3rd round pick (93 overall) to the Arizona Coyotes for the 23rd overall pick and the 128th overall pick.
And with that 23rd pick in the 2017 SB Nation NHL Entry mock Draft, the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins are proud to select- from the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, defenseman Callan Foote.
Birthday: 12/13/1998 (18 years old)
From: Englewood, Colorado (dual USA-CAN citizenship, will play hockey internationally for Canada)
Current Team: Kelowna (WHL)
2016-17 stats: 71 games, 6 goals, 51 assists, 57 points, 41 PIMs, +39
Foote tested out really well at June's NHL combine. Here's some highlights:
Cal Foote ranked in the top 25 in five of the 14 fitness tests. He ranked tied for third in Aerobic Fitness: Test Duration with a time of 16:00. In Aerobic Fitness: VO2max (ml/kg/min) Cal ranked 21st with a score of 56.0. Cal ranked seventh in Agility & Balance: Pro Agility Left with a time of 4.5, and 14th in Pro Agility Right with a time of 4.55. And finally, Cal ranked 12th in Anthropometry: Wing Span (Inches) with a wingspan of 78.25.
- 12th for North American skaters (Central Scouting)
- ISS: 12th (May)
- THW (Pike’s Picks): 13th (final)
- Craig Button: 13 (final)
- Hockeyprospect.com: 14th
- DraftBuzz Hockey: 15
- Jeff Marek: 15
- The Hockey News: 16th (final)
- Bob McKenzie: 18th (Mid-season)
- Dobber Prospects: 22
- Future Considerations: 25th
- McKeens Hockey: 30th
Taking Foote at #23 overall is about right for the consensus of where most have him, probably even a bit of a steal in this mock draft. Given his measureables + WHL success + having a famous father who had a solid NHL career + simply being an RH shot, Foote has a ton of positives going for him. We see all of this as signs he probably will go a bit higher in the real draft, making the choice to take him here a very easy one.
Two-way defenseman with high hockey IQ in all three zones. Almost never out of position on a play.
Rock solid. Defensively shuts down the rush extremely well w/good positioning & active stick.
Foote has the potential to be a top pairing NHL defender, but will still need time to develop. He does many things well at the junior level, but will need some time to refine his game before going to the pros. In terms of a stylistic comparison, Foote is similar to Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is not a talent comparison though, just a stylistic one.
Will be a 12-year NHLer. A really solid, safe pick.
The best description I’ve heard of Foote is "incredibly smart." The kid has very strong instincts of what to do and where to go on the ice, to the point where it’s almost spooky. Because of these instincts, he’s incredibly steady and doesn’t get caught out of position a lot – which gives his teammates the ability to "cheat" sometimes to create odd-man rushes. He’s an effective passer and shooter who anticipates well. He’s arguably not elite at any one thing, except perhaps his ability to think the game, but he doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses either.
One comparison I’ve heard for Foote is Dougie Hamilton and it’s not a bad one. Foote’s a right shot, rangey big defenseman. He doesn’t play incredibly physical yet, but he has the frame to potentially bulk up and battle against bigger players.
Foote is a fairly good passer with size, strength, and defensive potential
An assertive two-way defenceman that reads plays quickly and understands both the offensive and defensive sides of the roles he is put into. He plays a consistent game, and can be trusted to create chances from the back end on special teams. He uses his size to gain leverage against other players, though he isn't an overly physical force. His hockey sense is outstanding, and his ability to not just read but start and, on the odd occasion, finish plays is overtly indicative of his high talent level. (Curtis Joe, EP 2017)
Other possibilities at #31
Since the Pens (probably) won't trade up, here's some players that might be around when they pick to keep an eye on for draft day, in the order of how I rank them from most desirable on down:
--Conor Timmons -- a plus skating, puck-moving, point-producing right-handed defenseman (7g+54a in 67 games in the OHL). This is the guy I wanted at #31, but decided to trade up for fear he would be gone. Checks a lot of boxes for how the Pens like to play.
--Robert Thomas -- a center for London in the OHL, he's been compared a lot to Bo Horvat and is already a point/game player in the OHL. Seems like a great choice to be a 3C of the future for the Pens as a great two-way forward with some good offensive ability.
--Urho Vaakanainen -- His name would be fun, huh? Anyways his scouting reports make him sound a lot like fellow Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta, My notes on him say, "very polished playing against grown men in the Finnish league for the past 2 seasons at a very, very young age...Great skater and outlet passer, does not have a good shot or great offensive instincts but will be a reliable partner for an offensive minded defenseman".
--Pierre-Olivier Joseph -- a LHD who plays on the same junior team as Daniel Sprong, Joseph's best scouting reports made him seem like a future Niklas Hjarlmarsson type if everything panned out just right, or maybe an Ian Cole type. Not terrible for end of a first round pick, but he's not going to be running an NHL power play.
--Henri Jokiharju -- a smooth-skating RHD that plays in Portland for ex-Pens coach Mike Johnston. Almost have a bias against him due to that junior team's 1st round Pittsburgh picks not panning out so well (Joe Morrow, Derrick Pouliot) but this kid seems like he has a ton of ability and potential.
I don't scout them live, and as you can tell I zeroed in on defensemen. There could be some alluring wingers around at this point, but we'll see how it goes. If Pittsburgh lands a player on this list, consider me happy.
We decided to trade up since we thought Foote seems like a future top-4 defenseman, and his size + RH shot are traits that are very difficult to acquire for a team like Pittsburgh that doesn't usually have a high draft pick (or any first round pick at all, most years). He almost certainly wouldn't have been around for the Pens pick at the end of the 1st round, and may go as high as 15 in the real draft, so why not move up to grab him?
Being a hulking defenseman who's right handed, the Pens have no one like him in their system. In a few years he could just be a Dougie Hamilton/Seth Jones/Rasmus Ristolainen/ Colton Parayko type of a big, reliable RHD and give Pittsburgh a bedrock player on their defense for years to come as a guy like Letang makes the turn into his 30's. The opportunity to add a top-flight defenseman like that was too tempting for us as the Penguins choice in this mock draft.