After an unmemorable start to the season, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Liam Foudy has been a pleasant surprise in recent weeks.
It was just over a month ago that I questioned if the 23-year-old forward had a future with the organization, after he had gone scoreless for, well, his entire regular-season career. When the streak finally came to a close, Foudy had gone 62 straight games without a goal. But since Feb. 18, Foudy has found the back of the net in five of 15 games and has added two assists. In his past seven games, he has tallied a respectable 3-2-5.
First NHL (regular-season) goal for Liam Foudy (@foudshow)!— NHL (@NHL) February 19, 2023
NHL Next Gen Rookies presented by @BioSteelSports. pic.twitter.com/fIt852A4bZ
As is always the case, this new-found production comes with the age-old conundrum: Is he scoring more because he's confident? Or is his confidence allowing him to score more? In Tuesday's win over the Washington Capitals, Foudy skated on the third line alongside Cole Sillinger and Emil Bemstrom, a step up in sheer hockey talent than his fourth-line counterparts (all due respect to Lane Pederson, etc.), even with Sillinger's struggle and Bemstrom's inability to grasp a top-six winger spot for all these years.
Part of the reason I questioned Foudy's place in the organization's future is his lack of a defined role. He's far from the only player that I struggle to slot on an optimal playoff lineup from this roster, but he sticks out because of draft bias. When a player is picked in the first round, it's easy to have expectations that he'll turn into a play-driving forward. That hasn't been the case, but it isn't always that cut and dry. As of this writing, Foudy was 37th in his draft class in points. That's obviously not great, but it just goes to show that, for all of the 'bust' label that surrounds him, the reality is that a lot of players taken 18th overall just don't become stars.
Liam Foudy gives us ANOTHER ONE pic.twitter.com/YYJebkva2I— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 8, 2023
In doing research for this article, one stat jumped off the page. Per NaturalStatTrick, Foudy's on-ice save percentage is just 87.76% (worst amongst Blue Jackets forwards, minimum 200 TOI). His on-ice shooting percentage is just 6.03% (third-worst). That can mean one of two things - he's either incredibly unlucky or incredibly ineffective. Over a 50-game sample size, I'm starting to lean toward the latter, but in his sick and twisted reality, he's actually individually out-performing that with an individual 10% shooting percentage (all stats 5v5).
I'm still not sure that Foudy has a spot in the lineup next year. In fact, if I were a betting man, I would still say that he's probably an extra forward, if on the team at all. But it is still preferable that Foudy has taken some steps this season toward becoming a more threatening offensive player. These last 12 regular-season games are largely meaningless, but try telling that to players like Foudy. If Foudy can end the year on a solid scoring streak, maybe he can finally parlay that into a full season.