(Photo Credit: Melissa Wade)
After nearly four seasons with the St. Louis Blues, veteran center Paul Stastny was dealt at the trade deadline to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb 26, 2018.
Stastny was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the Blues were struggling. They had lost six straight games leading up to the deadline, leaving GM Doug Armstrong with a tough decision. Should he try to move a player or two and get something for them in return or give up valuable prospects for someone who could help the Blues get to the playoffs and make a post-season run?
Not wanting to deplete one of the deepest prospect cupboards in the league and mortgage the future for a rental player that wouldn’t be around next year, and not wanting to gamble on which prospects to deal and which ones to hang on to, he chose to trade Stastny and add even more prospects.
The Blues got two pieces in return, a first-round draft pick in 2018 and a college prospect by the name of Erik Foley.
Foley was born in Mansfield, Massachusetts on June 30, 1997. Mansfield is about 35 miles southwest of Boston and near Foxboro, where the New England Patriots call home. He played two years of hockey at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts and that’s where his college coach, Nate Leaman first saw him play.
“The first thing I noticed about him was his athleticism.” Coach Leaman told me in a recent phone conversation.
In his two years at Tabor Academy Foley had 26 goals and 39 assists for 65 points in 55 games.
After high school, Erik played a full season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL where he was selected to the All-Rookie Team after scoring 27 goals and 27 assists for 54 points in 55 games. He also logged 80 penalty minutes in those 55 games.
Following the season at Cedar Rapids, the Winnipeg Jets selected Foley in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL draft as the 78th overall pick. Interestingly enough, the Blues pick at #56 in that same draft was none other than this year’s rookie defenseman, Vince Dunn.
Foley chose to play his college hockey at Providence College where Coach Leaman had led the Friars to the school’s first-ever NCAA Championship in 2015. Nine players from the 2015 championship team signed pro contracts.
It’s proven to be a program that develops good players and Leaman has proven his ability to recruit talent and develop it for the pro game. Jake Walman, another Blues prospect, was a member of the 2015 NCAA Championship team. The Blues staff was familiar with Foley from their time watching Jake Walman play. I asked Coach Leaman what it was about Erik’s game that would cause him to stand out when scouts and coaches were there to watch other prospects.
“The same thing that stood out to me, his athleticism and explosiveness as well as his offensive abilities.” Leaman reiterated.
Foley’s career at Providence included “Freshman of the Year” in the Hockey East Conference. He was 2nd on the team in scoring his sophomore year and led the team in goals, assists and scoring in his junior year with 16 goals, 19 assists, 35 points in 38 games. He was a 1st team Hockey East All-Star, a Hobey Baker Nominee and a Semi-finalist for the Walter Brown Award (best American-born hockey player in the Northeast).
His teammate and team captain, Brian Pinho had lots of good things to say about Foley in a recent interview at the Hockey East tournament. “He’s got incredible hockey sense. He makes plays that I don’t even know that he knew I was standing there, but he’ll just make a good play. He’s a great skater. He takes the puck hard to the net and he has a great shot, obviously.”
Pinho, who led the Friars in scoring last season, finished his career at Providence this season and was a 2013 6th round draft pick of the Washington Capitals.
Erik was also a teammate with Tage Thompson for the USA World Junior Championships in 2017 where the US team won the gold medal.
When Thompson was asked what kind of player Foley was after he was dealt to St. Louis, Thompson said, “The Blues are getting a great power forward.”
Coach Leaman had similar things to say about Foley at the Hockey East Tournament, “I think the big thing is he’s always kind of been like a bull in a china shop. He’s always been strong. He’s always been able to be explosive out of the corners in tight areas.”
When I asked if there were a current or former NHL player that Leaman would compare Foley’s game to his response was:
“Evander Kane. Erik is a goal scorer and his game kind of reminds me of Kane’s.”
Foley is 6’0″ and 185 lbs. and plays left wing. Looking at his stats, he has adapted well to each level of play throughout his young career. From high school to the USHL and then on to Providence College, he’s managed to come out on top all along the way.
Leaman went on to say, “Erik has skills that, if he continues to develop them will help him succeed at the next level. I’ve already mentioned how athletic and explosive he is but he is also a very good skater. He will just need to continue adjusting to the next level. The game gets faster and players have to adjust.”
The news that he would forego his senior year at Providence and sign an entry-level deal with the Blues brought mixed reviews on social media. Providence fans were hoping he’d stick around for another season, but fans from opposing teams didn’t quite express those same feelings.
It’s quite high praise when your opponents are glad they don’t have to face you any longer. Blues fans are hoping opposing central division teams have that same feeling when facing Foley some day.
Foley sustained a concussion in his final college game and then chose to take his game to the next level by signing his NHL contract with the Blues. It is expected that he will put his skills to the test in San Antonio with what will be the Blues-controlled AHL team next season.
It will be interesting to see how he develops at the next level. Blues fans may just see him reunited with Tage Thompson in a couple of years and who knows, we might see him with his former Friars teammate, Jake Walman on the ice together someday at Scottrade as St. Louis Blues.
Welcome to St. Louis, Erik Foley. Welcome to the St. Louis Blues.
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