It didn’t take long for Cal Foote to establish himself as a top-four defenseman with the Kelowna Rockets.
Just three games into his Western Hockey League career, the 16-year-old from Denver has been filling the role of a seasoned veteran, playing in all situations and logging 20-plus minutes of ice time on a nightly basis.
“I think he’s going to be a very special player, for sure,” Rockets’ assistant coach Kris Mallette said of Foote. “Game by game, he’s gotten better and better. He’s a very composed young man, his vision is very good, and he’s very poised out there. I’d say, so far, so good for him.”
Foote, the son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, was the Rockets’ second round choice in the 2014 WHL bantam draft.
As an American-born player—with dual citizenship—Foote had several options on which direction to go with his hockey career, including the Ontario Hockey League, the American college route or the U.S. developmental program.
In the end, Foote said Kelowna stood out above the rest.
“It was kind of hard to turn down the Rockets,” said the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Foote, who turns 17 in December. “You look at all the players they’ve produced, especially the defensemen, it’s pretty amazing, you can’t really say no.
“I really consider myself Canadian, too, so I did want to play in the CHL,” he added. “It was ultimately my decision and (the Rockets) is what I chose.”
While Foote comes to the Rockets with plenty of natural talent—thanks in large part to his bloodlines—Mallette said the guidance and coaching he received from his dad over the years has been invaluable.
“I was fortunate to be able to sit with his dad (Adam) during training camp and you can tell he’s taken a lot of pride in coaching Cal, teaching him the ins and outs of the game,” Mallette said. “And it really shows. Just to be around the pro game I think has helped him, too, seeing his dad at an elite level. The knowledge he’s passed on has been very beneficial for (Cal).”
In addition to being a quick study with the Rockets, Foote didn’t waste time in getting his first point in major junior hockey.
Last Saturday in Vancouver, Foote knocked down an errant pass and fired a power play goal past the Giants’ netminder for his first WHL goal.
“It felt good,” he said, “it was nice to get that first one.”
As for the positive reviews from the Rockets coaching staff and his quick transition to the WHL game, Foote said he’s simply grateful to be getting the opportunity.
“I just feel fortunate to be in the lineup every night, so far,” said Foote. “It’s a great opportunity to be here in Kelowna, I love it here, and I just want to make the best of it.”
If all goes as planned, Cal will one day suit up with his younger brother in Kelowna Rockets’ colours.
The WHL champs made Nolan Foote their first choice, 43rd overall in the 2015 bantam draft.
Four in five…
The Rockets’ mental and physical stamina will be on trial this weekend as the defending champs play four games in five nights in Alberta.
Kelowna (2-1-0-0) starts off in Edmonton on Friday, followed by stops in Red Deer Saturday, Lethbridge on Sunday and in Medicine Hat on Tuesday.
“We’ll need to be road warriors in this stretch, make sure we play tight road hockey,” said Rockets head coach Brad Ralph. “It’s not ideal, I don’t know if there’s many other teams that have to deal with this (scheduling), but we have to find a way through it. Hopefully we can get off to a good start and carry that through.”
Kelowna’s next home action is Friday, Oct. 9 against the Victoria Royals.
The Rockets will be without forward Dillon Dube for the first two games of their Alberta road trip this weekend. The 17-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., has been disciplined for a kneeing major and ensuing game misconduct during Saturday’s game in Vancouver against the Giants. Dube will be eligible to return for Kelowna’s game Sunday in Lethbridge.