Liam Foudy has been on one heck of a roller coaster for the past year or so.
Last spring, after the 2018 first-round draft pick's London Knights team was eliminated from the OHL playoffs, he joined the Cleveland Monsters for their playoff run, playing in eight games and tallying 2-0-2.
Foudy had hoped to parlay that experience into a productive summer that could allow him to compete for a spot on the opening night roster, but an injury sustained in overtime of the last game at the Traverse City prospects tournament ended his training camp before it ever started.
Understandably frustrated, Foudy returned to London for his fourth season with the Knights, where he struggled out of the gate to produce at a clip expected of his pedigree.
That all changed around Christmas.
Foudy was named to Team Canada's U20 World Junior Championship team, where he scored 3-1-4 in seven games en route to helping his home country win a gold medal. He was named one of Team Canada's three best players of the tournament, joining Barrett Hayton, who was taken fifth overall in 2018, and Alexis Lafreniere, who is expected to be selected first overall in this year's draft.
After that, the now-20-year-old returned to the Knights with a vengeance, finishing the (now canceled) season on an 18-game point streak that saw him produce 13-21-34. His 68 points this season matched his total from last season, but he got there in 17 fewer games (45 vs. 62).
The only thing that could stop his torrid march through the OHL was a global pandemic.
Along the way, the Blue Jackets' injury woes gave Foudy an opportunity to be recalled and play two games during the OHL season, a rarity given the criteria that must be met to fulfill the NHL-CHL agreement.
In two games, he looked anything but out of place, and John Tortorella played him 10:22 and 18:03 (!) in two games (both OTL) against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres. Empowering the young forward, Tortorella even gave him a shift in OT against the Sabres, where he held his own. Earlier in the game, Foudy tallied his first career NHL point, an assist on a goal by Boone Jenner.
Playing primarily with Jenner and Gus Nyquist (extremely small sample size alert!), Foudy was able to produce positive possession numbers in both games.
Before we go on, there's a few things I want to address about Foudy.
He's never been – and probably never will be – a high-scoring forward. Even in the context of his own team, his 28 goals and 68 points rank third. Despite what many fans will hope from a former first-round pick, he's simply unlikely to be a 30+ goal scorer at the NHL – and that's okay. His calling cards make him an extremely intriguing prospect.
Recently, the OHL released their 2019-20 coaches poll, in which coaches from around the league vote on 20 categories, ranging from the typical (most improved player) to the more obscure (best puck-handling goaltender). Foudy was well represented, being named the Western Conference's best penalty killer, best skater, and second-best defensive forward. That's high praise, and it's coming from the exact people who are tasked with game-planning against the speedy forward.
Here's a good clip showing off his speed and penalty-killing prowess:
The Blue Jackets are poised to have an interesting offseason. Unlike last summer, there are no UFAs on the current roster, but with a glut of NHL talent and a lack of top-six forwards, a trade or two could be on the horizon. With or without a potential trade, Foudy showed he may be ready for the NHL right now. Aside from his dynamic speed and defensive chops, his versatility as a forward who was drafted as a center that can also play on the wing should be intriguing for the coaching staff/management.
Either way, Foudy's junior career is over, and if he doesn't make the big club out of training camp, he'll be a just a few hours away in Cleveland (AHL).
Also of note: his three-year entry-level contract hasn't begun in earnest, even with his brief stint in Columbus, thanks to an entry-level slide provision in the CBA, so the Blue Jackets have plenty of flexibility regarding his waivers exemption and cost control.
With so much uncertainty, it's difficult to say exactly where Foudy will fit next season. Between his inexpensive salary, his penalty-killing/speed assets, and a significant amount of expected turnover, Foudy could be a regular with the Blue Jackets next season in a third line capacity.