The latest in a long line of elite defenceman to pull on a Kelowna Rockets’ uniform, Cal Foote’s body of work during the 2017-18 Western Hockey League season ranks among the best in franchise history.
The 19-year-old native of Engelwood, CO was this week the named Western Conference nominee for the WHL’s top defenceman award.
Serving as the Rockets’ captain, Foote scored 19 goals and added 51 assists in 60 games this season, while compiling a +31 plus/minus rating.
Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette said players of Foote’s calibre and intelligence are few and far between.
“He’s an elite defender who does so many things well, on and off the ice,” Mallette said of Foote. “He’s the most cerebral, intelligent player I’ve ever worked with, personally, and that’s saying a lot considering how many good ones we’ve had here.”
While the eldest of the two Foote brothers undoubtedly benefited from growing up in a hockey-oriented home—father Adam Foote played 20 seasons in the NHL—Mallette said Cal should be credited for much of his success in the game to date.
“His understanding of the game is second to none,” said Mallette. “Now some of that may be the environment he grew up in, but he’s done a lot of this on his own. He works very hard, he watches hockey all the time, and just loves the game.
“He’s wise beyond his years…a real pleasure to coach and be around.”
After a solid first half of 2017-18, Foote pushed his game to an even higher standard following his appearance and gold medal win with Team Canada at the world junior championship. From Jan. 10 to the end of the regular season, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Tampa Bay draft pick had 13 goals and 40 points in just 30 games.
“Cal really turned up his game after the selection camp and the world juniors,” said Mallette. “He gained more confidence, took it to another level and really rounded out every aspect of his game. The recognition is completely warranted, in my opinion.”
Foote will be up against Eastern Conference nominee Kale Clague of the Moose Jaw Warriors when the top defenceman award is presented at the WHL Awards Luncheon May 2 in Red Deer.
It’s been award-filled week for Foote who was named Sunday as the Rockets’s team MVP, as well as the club’s top blueliner for the second year in a row.
In addition to his top defenceman nomination, Cal Foote was named to the Western Conference first all-star team.
Rockets’ teammate and foward Dillon Dube was named to the second all-star squad. Dube, 19, had 38 goals and 84 points in just 53 games this season.
Foote and Dube, who served as Team Canada captain, helped the Canadians to a gold medal at the world junior hockey championship in January in Buffalo.
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