In case there was any doubt as to whether Liam Foudy might be ready for the highest level, he took a big step toward removing that Monday night.
The 2018 first-round draft pick of the Blue Jackets remains a prospect, but he's also now an NHL player after he made his debut against Tampa Bay in Nationwide Arena.
Tonight, he'll put on the green and gold of his London Knights of the OHL, but he was in the CBJ's third jersey Monday night as part of an emergency recall that allowed the 20-year-old to make his first NHL appearance.
Video: Foudy speaks to the media after his first NHL game.
He finished with 10:23 played at right wing over 13 shifts, had two shots on goal and was noticeably dangerous at times, including a chance that nearly got past a screened Curtis McElhinney in the second period and another nice backhand feed in the third period that sprung Gus Nyquist in on a half breakaway.
How impressive was Foudy in his first game? Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said the rookie would have been on the ice for the next shift of 3-on-3 overtime had Columbus not lost the game on the opening shift.
"Part of the reason I was (upset) we didn't get another shift in there in that 3-on-3, I wanted to see him play," Tortorella said. "As I watched how confident he was with the puck -- he had a couple of scoring chances for us -- I wanted to see him play in open ice."
Foudy's speed and poise on the puck showed, and neither of those should be a surprise. Speed has been his calling card his entire hockey career and was one of the reasons he was taken with the No. 18 overall pick of the 2018 draft. The son of a CFL football player and Olympic sprinter, Foudy has the athleticism to stand out in any sport.
As for the poise, he's honed that while playing both at the highest level of junior hockey -- he's in his fourth season with the Knights, where he has a 20-23-43 line in 32 games this year -- as well as the international level, as in January he earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Foudy said he was pleased with how things go, especially after he settled down following some early jitters.
"Exceeded expectations for sure," he said of the debut. "You never know what to expect. I just dreamed of this one day. Playing in my first game, it was a lot of fun."
He was expected to compete for a spot on the Blue Jackets roster in camp, but a shoulder injury suffered at the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., in September ended those hopes. Foudy can be recalled up to five times during this season before March 1 provided it doesn't conflict with any Knights games, and he's eligible to play full-time in the Blue Jackets organization when the OHL season ends.
In the meantime, that meant quick travel to Columbus on Sunday, a Monday night game, then a return to London on Tuesday.
"I said, 'You're playing Tuesday in London. Get your (crap) out of here and go. Hope to see you again,'" Tortorella said of his parting message to Foudy. "I certianly have interest. I liked the way he played."
Monsters drop two of three: Considering the constant shuttle from Cleveland to Columbus, it's not a huge surprise the Cleveland Monsters have had trouble gaining traction in the American Hockey League race.
The top farm team of the Blue Jackets is 4-3-1-0 in the first eight games of a nine-game homestand, which ends tonight when the Monsters host Grand Rapids at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. At 22-23-2-2 overall, the Monsters remain in last place in the North Division, though the team is still just five points out of fourth place in the last playoff spot in the division.
Last week, the team got off to a bumpy start with a 4-2 loss to visiting Rochester. Matiss Kivlenieks was sent down from Columbus to get some work and made 44 saves on 48 shots, while the Monsters had 25 shots on goal. Calvin Thurkauf and Trey Fix-Wolansky each scored, but Rochester built leads of 2-0 and 4-1 on the way to the win.
Friday night, Cleveland got back on the winning track with a 3-0 blanking of visiting Binghamton. Veini Vehvilainen got the win and shutout by making 34 saves in his third clean sheet of the season. Derek Barach finished with two goals while Paul Bittner got the other, while Fix-Wolansky had an assist to give him a 5-5-10 line in a 10-game span.
Turnabout was fair play, though, on Sunday as the Devils got a 4-0 victory over the Monsters. It was Gilles Senn's turn to get the shutout, as the netminder who made his first-ever NHL start vs. Columbus in December turned aside 22 shots from the Monsters. Vehvilainen made 38 saves.
After Tuesday's game vs. the Griffins, Monsters will head to Grand Rapids for a Friday game then visit Rockford on Saturday and Chicago on Sunday.
- Kirill Marchenko has made some history in Russia, as the 19-year-old has set a team record for a teenager. With four goals and 11 points in 24 games, the 2018 second-round pick now has the highest scoring season ever for a SKA St. Petersburg player under age 20.
- 2019 seventh-round pick Tyler Angle was named Windsor's player of the week after posting a goal and five assists in a two-game span, including a four-point night Friday vs. Sarnia. The 19-year-old now has a 24-31-55 line in 49 games with the Spitfires of the OHL.
- With a goal Saturday vs. Penn State, Powell native and 2017 sixth-round pick Carson Meyer has six goals in 12 games for Ohio State since the calendar flipped to 2020.