NEWARK, NJ - When Nolan Foote got the phone call from Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois, he was in a state of shock. It's a similar story that plays out in every major sports league.
Trades, especially those so early in your hockey career, are often unexpected. Foote, who spoke with NewJerseyDevils.com for an exclusive interview one day following his trade from Tampa to New Jersey, seemed to have recovered from his initial shock and he was instead thoroughly focused on the future.
Video: ON THE PHONE | Nolan Foote
A quick scan of the New Jersey Devils roster and it's easy to see why a young, talented winger would like a chance to grow and develop with what the organization has up front. With two first-overall picks in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes manning the middle, it's a shooter's dream.
And Foote can certainly shoot.
"I think there's obviously gonna be a bright future and, hopefully, when I crack the lineup, eventually, and with one of those two guys, it's going to be good. And, hopefully, there are lots of goals to come."
The scouting report on Foote is that he is a big kid with big-time shot. Devils Interim General Manager Tom Fitzgerald said as much following his trade for Foote and a first-round pick, in which he parted with forward Blake Coleman. It was a big loss to get a big return. Foote and his enormous potential are the key to the trade.
"I am a big power forward," Foote said. "I've got a big frame and I try and use my size to my advantage, throwing my body around and I think I'm good below the goal line and in the offensive end and protecting the puck, as well as, I think, good hockey IQ."
But it's that shot that got scouts buzzing before he became a 2019 first-round pick.
"I just always worked on it, honestly, as much as I could," Foote said. "I was fortunate to have a smaller rink in our backyard growing up in Denver and I tried taking full advantage of that. I was shooting pucks as much as I could with my dad or brother and we were always feeding each other one-timers or whatever it was. And that definitely paid off."
But as a young player, Foote admits he's not without room to grow.
"I think quickness is the biggest [need for improvement]," Foote said. "I think my skating has improved a lot lately, but the NHL continues to get faster and faster. So I think just continuing to try and get quicker is going to be huge for being 6-foot-4. [You don't have to be] the fastest skater, but I think if I got that in my game it'll be really good for me."
Foote, 19, is currently captaining the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. He has 15 goals and a total of 33 points in 26 games. He helped Canada win gold at World Juniors and he's gearing up to turn professional next season. He believes he has a shot at making the Devils roster, understanding his off-season will dictate just how big of a shot that is.
"I think with a big summer of training, I have a good shot of making it," said Foote. "Either way, wherever I play either up or down, I'm just going to continue to grow and learn and be there soon."
Video: RAW | Fitzgerald on Greene and Coleman Trades
Luckily for Foote, he's had a life-time worth of advice from great resources. His father, Adam is a Stanley Cup champion with more than 1,154 NHL games under his belt. His brother, Cal, is a first-round pick as well. And Foote spent a couple years with Matt Duchene in the Foote household.
"Yeah, it's been huge," said Foote. "[Dad] has been there since day one. Obviously, when Cal and I started out playing, he was still busy with his career, but as much as he could he tried helping us, teaching us and getting on the ice with us. When he retired, he started out coaching Cal for two years and then after that he coached me. It was great. He's got a lot of hockey knowledge and it was nice to have that in the family."
Foote is particularly close with his brother Cal and credits their relationship with helping push him to be better.
"I was obviously young when he was living with us but the last few years if I want to get some advice, I could text him and he'd get back to me and then he'd teach me and then I played him in preseason in Nashville earlier this season, which was a really cool experience and I got to talk to him after and he was just teaching us some stuff and to have him there for me right now, it's really cool."
Surrounded by NHL influences and people who care about his career, Foote points to Jamie Benn in Dallas as a player he sees as an accurate comparison for himself.
"He's a big guy and he's got a good shot, good hockey vision. He's willing to play tough and get dirty and plays hard."