Liam Foudy didn't know what was up when Mark Hunter gave him a call on Sunday night, but it didn't take him long to find out it was good news.
The London Knights owner, vice president and general manager doesn't call his players very often, so it was likely going to be something momentous.
It turns out, it was the call all hockey players dream of. Foudy was headed to the NHL, with the Blue Jackets' first-round pick in the 2018 draft ticketed to make his NHL debut tonight as Columbus hosts Tampa Bay in a marquee matchup at Nationwide Arena.
"I was in bed, and Mark Hunter actually called me," Foudy said of literally getting the call. "He's like, I just got off the phone with (general manager) Jarmo (Kekalainen) in Columbus, and you're going to play against Tampa tomorrow night.
"I didn't believe him at first. I was in shock. I got on a flight right after and made it in last night. I couldn't believe it, right? You don't expect these kinds of things, but when it happens you have to be ready."
Video: Liam Foudy introduces himself to the media.
MORE ON FOUDY: Foudy thrilled with World Juniors experience | Foudy flew through 2018-19 season
As for being ready, the Blue Jackets think he is, and it seems like they would know. The Columbus organization has plenty of ties to London, one of the top junior teams in all of Canada let alone the OHL, considering CBJ assistant general manager Basil McRae owns a piece of the team and front office member and franchise legend Rick Nash played in London and also just made a scouting trip there.
The stats show a player in Foudy who doesn't have much more to prove at the junior level. The 20-year-old missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury but has 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points in 32 games. He was also a member of the Team Canada squad that won gold in January at the World Junior Championships.
"Yeah," he said when asked if he thinks he's ready. "That's why I got called up. Everything has been going pretty well this season. The team is doing really well in London as well. I'm just going to try to come here and soak it all in."
From the Blue Jackets' perspective, Foudy hopefully will add some scoring touch after posting 56 goals and 111 points in his past 94 games with London while also contributing three goals in seven games to the World Juniors effort.
Columbus will be without injured winger Cam Atkinson tonight, and he joins a group of injured forwards that also includes such names as Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg. The Blue Jackets have four goals in the last three games despite carrying play, and the hope is Foudy and his elite speed can help create as he will likely play on a line with center Boone Jenner and winger Gus Nyquist.
"With Wennberg out, with Anderson out, with Cam out and so many offensive people out, why not look at an offensive guy and give him a chance?" head coach John Tortorella said of Foudy. "He's played very well in the reports that we've gotten from the Hunter brothers, Basil has talked to them, Jarmo has. With Cam going out, we're looking to add some offense and he's had a really good year."
If there's one attribute that stands out for Foudy, the No. 18 pick in the 2018 draft, it's speed. The son of a former CFL football player and an Olympic track medalist, he's used his swift skating ability to shine at the lower levels, including becoming one of the most dangerous players in junior hockey on the penalty kill.
He'll be joining a league much older and faster than the one he's used to tonight against the red-hot Lightning, but Foudy -- who did get a taste of pro hockey last year when he scored two goals in eight AHL playoff games with Cleveland -- will still try to rely on his calling card as he works his way into his first NHL action.
"I'm just trying to get used to the pace of play, but speed has always been my biggest thing, so I'm going to try to use that to the best of my ability tonight and try to have an impact on the game like that," he said.
Per terms of the agreement between the NHL and the CHL, Foudy will be with the team for just one game before returning to London for the Knights' game Tuesday night.
His stay in Columbus will be short for the time being -- he can play up to five games this year, though, as long as they don't interfere with London's schedule -- but in the meantime, he has nothing but a smile on his face. His parents will fly into Columbus for this game this afternoon, and Foudy will have the chance to see his dream come true.
"It'll be pretty hard to pregame nap probably today," Foudy said. "I'm pretty nervous and excited. I'm just going to try to stick to a normal routine and try to get ready for the game."