When the NHL playoffs start, the Blue Jackets will be mostly healthy.
The influx of healthy players will create great competition for forwards and defensemen. Seth Jones, Dean Kukan, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Nathan Gerbe, and (maybe) Alexandre Texier are all set to return for the Blue Jackets as the proposed 24-team playoff continues to gain traction amongst players and front offices.
However, there is one player who hasn't been injured, has NHL-caliber attributes, and is eligible to play in the playoffs: Liam Foudy. His speed and penalty-killing ability are his two best skills, and would certainly help the Blue Jackets.
A first-round draft pick in 2018, Foudy impressed with a solid 2019-20 season in the OHL. As the captain of the London Knights, he notched 28 goals and 40 assists in 45 games. In the 2019-20 OHL coaches poll, Foudy was named the Western Conference's best penalty killer, best skater, and second-best defensive forward.
As Foudy was in the midst of a quality campaign, heads in the Blue Jackets' front office turned. Due to the incredibly injured state of the team at the time, they were able to recall him from London. The NHL's agreement with the CHL states that a team can recall one of its signed players if it comes at a time “that is not inconvenient” to the junior club (re: games missed).
Foudy played two games for the Blue Jackets, tallying one assist and averaging 14 minutes and 12 seconds of ice time. He didn't look out of place, and was able to match the speed and intensity of the NHL.
"[Foudy] played really well the two games we had him up," said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. "He's eligible to compete for ice time just like anybody else on our team. We've told him to prepare accordingly, so if we get back playing he'll be part of the group that gives Tortorella options."
Options aren't a bad thing to have, especially when you consider the state of the Blue Jackets forwards for much of the year. It seemed as though every time a forward got healthy, another forward got hurt.
Now that the Blue Jackets have forward depth, where will Foudy fit in?
Great question! I'm glad you asked.
The best spot for Foudy is on the third line. While he put up over a point-per-game in the OHL, he finished 35th in scoring overall, and you shouldn't expect him to be near a point-per-game in the NHL. His dynamic speed, defense, and penalty-killing ability are what set him apart from other options, and he would be well-suited to a third-line center role.
If Tortorella looks elsewhere for options at center, Foudy is also capable of playing on the wing, which is what he did in his two games with the Blue Jackets this year.
[Foudy] showed really good poise. He is a fast player - I liked a lot of things about his game."– John Tortorella, after Liam Foudy's NHL debut
Although he's just 20, Foudy's ready for the big-time. It's up to Tortorella to decide if he gets the opportunity. While there are other good options, Foudy brings a lot of the skills that Tortorella looks for in a player — speed, hard work on the defensive side of the puck, and offensive creativity.
It's entirely possible that Foudy doesn't make the postseason roster. If he doesn't, he's still likely to make the roster out of training camp next season.
There's a youthful resurgence in Columbus. With Foudy, Texier, Emil Bemstrom, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Zach Werenski, Kevin Stenlund, Eric Robinson, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Oliver Bjorkstrand all 24-years-old or younger, the future is certainly looking bright.
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