On Saturday, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Liam Foudy turned 23.
That's not old by NHL standards, but it isn't particularly young, either. Foudy, the 18th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, may be approaching 'he is what he is' status.
With a career 0-8-8 (G-A-PTS) stat line in 58 regular season games over four NHL seasons, it's clear that Foudy's calling card is not that of a scorer. Foudy's lone NHL goal came in the playoff 'bubble' against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 10 playoff games, he has a goal and an assist.
In his last 27 NHL games this season, Foudy has been held off the scoresheet entirely, posting 0-0-0 over 301:24 of ice time.
In Foudy's defense, his development has been stunted. In 2020, he joined the Blue Jackets down the stretch for two regular season games, then played in all 10 playoff games. His future seemed very bright at the time. In the 2021-22 56-game abbreviated season, he split time between Columbus (0-4-4 in 24 games) and AHL Cleveland (3-13-16 in 12 games). After that season, he seemed to be too advanced for the AHL, but not yet effective at the NHL level.
That wasn't a concern, necessarily. But in his age 21/22 season, his outlook started to appear murkier. He played just one game at the NHL level and failed to follow up his solid AHL season, primarily being left on the 'taxi squad' (remember that nightmare?). Then, so far this season, he's again failed to really capitalize in any significant capacity. In 31 games, he's posted a forgettable 0-3-3 while averaging a career-low 11:07, despite the fact that the Blue Jackets are the most injured team in the NHL. His inability to show himself useful in a depleted lineup is notable. His invisibility is quite visible.
Foudy is signed for more year beyond this season at a very manageable $762k cap hit. After that, he'll be an RFA. One can't help but wonder if his time is up after this season, though. He's been playing with Jack Roslovic and Emil Bemstrom on a quintessential leftover line. It's not the fourth line; that's a well-defined line of Sean Kuraly, Eric Robinson, and Matthieu Olivier, and it's definitely not one of the club's top two lines. Brad Larsen seems to have more faith in the 'kids' line of Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, and Kirill Marchenko, and for good reason. Bemstrom and Roslovic similarly find themselves in limbo, not consistent enough to crack the top six but not a fourth liner, either.
Perhaps Foudy is simply a fourth-liner, but in a surprising twist (at least, to me), he's been totally outplayed by Olivier. While Foudy brings foot speed, Olivier brings other elements (toughness, size, etc.) and has shown at least a modicum of scoring touch, tallying 3-5-8 in 46 games.
Foudy is something of a cautionary tale. Picked in the middle of the first round, he had one elite asset: speed. That is typical of players picked in that range; there's a reason he wasn't a higher pick. The hope is that the rest of his game would catch up to his feet, but alas.
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler recently ranked Foudy the 9th best prospect in the Blue Jackets pool, which is notable that he's still considered a prospect despite playing in four NHL seasons. His analysis is concise:
"... his floor and his ceiling feel awfully closer together these days, and the clock is ticking on him to show he can be an up-and-down lineup guy who is the third-best player on a middle-six line or a driver on a fourth line."
The Blue Jackets don't need to make a decision any time soon Foudy. They're a very injured team, and it's likely that Foudy will play in the last 30 games of this season. Next season, when the team (theoretically) returns to health, it's hard to figure out a way for Foudy to play a regular shift in the lineup.