Drafting hockey players is far from an exact science. There is no foolproof way of adding prospects to your organization, and it always comes with risks. The key is for a franchise to do all of their homework. Identify a player’s strengths and weaknesses, and use that to calculate potential upside and how they project as NHLers. Heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, many predicted the Philadelphia Flyers to address their need for a lethal goal-scorer in round one. They did just that, selecting Tyson Foerster 23rd-overall. However, there is so much more to the young man than a deadly shot. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, and all of it will help determine his future.
Foerster possesses a bounty of qualities that make him worthy of a first-round selection. Though his shot will receive most of the praise, it arguably is not even his most valuable asset. Yes, he is an accurate sniper dedicated to mastering his craft. However, Foerster is also an incredibly intelligent player with top-notch puck handling and playmaking ability.
Foerster is one of the smarter players from the 2020 draft class. His fantastic vision, anticipation, and processing ability allow him to envision plays and player movement before it occurs on the ice. He understands his weaknesses and can compensate by recognizing where the opposition’s next moves. Of course, these abilities improve his play off the puck substantially. In stride with compensating for his shortcomings, Foerster has mastered the art of trailing. He will never be the first player up the ice and rarely brings the puck into the offensive zone on his stick. For this reason, he must understand how to be a valuable trailing option. Luckily, Foerster possesses a great deal of comfort in this role, is knowledgeable about advantageous positioning, and can generate high-quality scoring opportunities.
Another key contributor to Foerster’s ability to generate high-quality scoring is his wicked slapshot. It ranks among the top three in his draft class and makes him one of the more dangerous powerplay options among his peers. Foerster’s slapshot is consistently accurate and useful from longer distances. His reduced windup translates into less time needed to get it off, increasing the chances of generating clean shot opportunities more often. Foerster’s shot mechanics not only paint the picture of a young player dedicated to mastering his craft, but they also translate into tip-top placement, velocity, and timing. His hockey IQ and vision come into play when he recognizes a goaltender’s struggles with moving laterally. He picks a spot unreachable for the netminder, typically resulting in a goal. Foerster’s shot alone makes him a player the opposition must account for every time he is on the ice.
Foerster benefits from opportunities to trail the play and set up in an area to take a quality shot. On most occasions, these chances arise in transition. Luckily Foerster possesses an accurate stretch pass that helps spark these chances. He’s yet to make it consistently effective; however, it is incredibly useful when it is working. As a playmaker, Foerster has the skill but still needs to improve. We expect this with a still-developing 18-year-old. Simultaneously, his playmaking will need to reach close to flawless to compensate for his deficiencies eventually.
Foerster possesses a high level of puck control. He can move the puck from his forehand to his backhand well and can maintain reasonable control when shifting the puck across the length of his body. Another aspect of his puck control that benefits his overall game is his ability to deceive the opposition with his hands. As is the theme with a lot of his current strengths, this will be important to maintain as he progresses with such a glaring weakness.
Every prospect possesses weaknesses. They are far from complete players, and all have areas they can improve. When assessing young players, it is all about how glaring those shortcomings are. For Foerster, it is a pretty major one that could dictate how far he makes it in professional hockey.
Alarmingly, many scouts view Foerster as the worst skater among the top-end talent in the 2020 draft class. From his lower body to his upper body, he is a mechanical disaster. Starting with his feet, he displays severe pronation at his ankles. This means that when he skates, he puts most of his weight on the inside of his foot. With skating, severe ankle pronation negatively affects explosiveness and prevents any real acceleration. When you have a player lacking in producing any real power or speed, one hopes they are mechanically sound. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Foerster.
Unfortunately, his upper-body does not help his cause either. His posture and upper-body movements are all out of whack. Tying that to the mess that is his lower-body leads Foerster to be constantly off-balance. Last season, he threw himself off-balance far too often, demonstrating that his skating might be an obstacle difficult to overcome.
Tyson Foerster is a complicated prospect to dissect. From his lethal slapshot to his outstanding hockey IQ, there is a lot to like. At the same time, it is essential to put some of those highlighted skills into perspective, especially the goal-scoring. Of his 36 goals last season, half of them occurred on the power play. At first glance, it seems like just what the Flyers need. However, producing a large chunk of your points on the power play is a bit of a red flag. It demonstrates that a player may not be as significant five-on-five. In Foerster’s case, you can directly attribute his poor skating to all of this. He thrives in situations where he can set up an area, wait for a pass, and unleash his shot. For obvious reasons, more opportunities such as this arise on the power play.
The reality is skating will be the deciding factor in how far Foerster’s career goes. He can get away with his faults at the junior level because other areas of his game are far superior to his opponents. That will not be the case once he reaches the professional ranks. Opposing teams will know what Foerster needs to do to make a positive impact, and they will have the skill to shut it down. Foerster’s skating is such a glaring issue; the rest of his game will need to be close-to-flawless for him to have success. That is a big ask.
Of course, his skating can improve. The Flyers must have faith it can, or they would not have selected him when they did. Coaches will continue to work their magic, and Foerster will continue to put in the work. If he can make his skating less of an issue, there is a chance Foerster becomes a valuable top-six option down the road. If he can’t, being a mainstay in the NHL is in jeopardy.
(Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire)