Marissa Baecker-Shoot The Breeze Kelowna Rockets’ defenceman Cal Foote is projected as a first-round pick in this summer’s NHL entry draft.

Foote a growing force on Rockets’ blueline

Cal Foote uses hard work, passion for the game and bloodlines in becoming one of the WHL’s top rearguards

Immersed in a pro hockey environment growing up in Colorado, Cal Foote and his younger brother Nolan could have easily felt pressured to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Quite the contrary, the 18-year-old defenceman for the Kelowna Rockets said his dad—19-year NHL veteran Adam Foote—left the decision to pursue a career in hockey entirely in his son’s hands.

“He told us we didn’t have to do it, we could make our own decisions without any pressure attached,” said Cal Foote. “There weren’t any expectations and that, I think, made it easier.

“Hockey is in our blood, it’s like our family business in a way,” he added. “We all function around hockey, we love the game and our parents have helped us and been very supportive along the way.”

Combining bloodlines and natural ability, his father’s tutelage, hard work and pure passion for the game, the elder Foote sibling has developed into one of major junior hockey’s most sought-after prospects.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Foote was ranked 12th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s recent midterm rankings, making him a potential upper first-round pick in this summer’s NHL entry draft.

After being drafted by the Rockets in the second round of the 2013 WHL bantam draft, Foote was faced with a decision—remain in his native U.S. to pursue a college career or head north to play in the Canadian Hockey League.

His dad, who played his major junior in the Ontario Hockey League, offered some guidance but once again left the final word to Cal.

“(My dad) had some good words about playing in the CHL and he also gave some good advice about the ups and downs that were going to come with it,” said Foote, who has five goals and 43 points in 56 games this season. “The Rockets are known for the way they develop defensemen and that was part of it.

“Ultimately, it was my decision and I really wanted to come here.”

Sufficed to say, neither Cal Foote nor the Rockets have any regrets with the decision.

In just his second season, no player on Kelowna’s roster logs more ice time than Foote who plays in every conceivable situation, and most often against the other team’s top lines.

Assistant GM Lorne Frey said the elder Foote has lived up to all expectations—and more.

“He has great offensive instinct, he makes good decisions, a very cerebral player,” said Frey. “He’s also really good defensively. It’s a real tribute to his father who has taught him well, to become the well-rounded player he is.

“He’s worked hard at his game and has improved in some areas like his skating,” Frey added. “One of his challenges is that his body continues to grow and develop and he’s having to adjust and catch up to that. But he will and we think he’ll become a very good pro player in the future.”

Rockets head coach Jason Smith, who played against Adam Foote for more than a decade in the NHL, said while living up to a name can present some challenges for young players, Cal has dealt with any pressure extremely well.

“He’s done a great job, staying centred and engaged, and is a young player who wants to grow his game and keep getting better,” said Smith. “Obviously there can be expectations that come with a name, but he’s stayed focused on what he wants to do.”

As an added bonus, the Rockets have the pleasure of watching not one, but two Foote brothers develop over the next couple of seasons. Nolan, 16, is considered by more than a few scouts to be one of the best players to come out of the 2015 bantam draft.

Coincidentally, the younger Foote was drafted 43rd overall, in precisely the same spot as Cal two years earlier.

“We’re very lucky to have both of them,” said Frey. “We were ecstatic when they both decided to come. It’s worked out very well for us, and we feel pretty fortunate.”

Salmond CHL goalie of week…

A pair of shutouts over the Vancouver Giants has earned the Rockets’ Brodan Salmond Canadian Hockey League goalie of the week honours.

The 18-year-old Calgary native, who was also named the WHL’s goaltender of the week, stopped 41 shots in two victories last weekend.

Salmond made 22 saves in a 6-0 win over the Giants Friday in Kelowna, then 19 more in a 5-0 Rockets victory Saturday in Langley.

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