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First-round pick Cal Foote 'excited' to join Lightning

The No. 14 overall selection fills Tampa Bay's need for a right-handed shot defenseman in its prospect pipeline

by Bryan Burns /

Callan Foote: Interview

Callan Foote on being drafted by the Lightning

Defenseman Callan Foote reacts to being selected 14th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning

  • 04:13 •

On Thursday, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the Bolts would take the best player available when they made their first selection at the 2017 NHL Draft at Chicago's United Center.

The Lightning have also been in the market for a right-handed shot defenseman to add to their prospect pipeline.

The Bolts were able to fulfill both wishes during Friday's First Round.

With the 14th overall pick in the draft, the Lightning took Cal Foote, a right-handed shot, two-way defenseman from Kelowna of the Western Hockey League.

"We actually had a decision to make," Yzerman said. "We had some players that we really were excited about picking at that spot, and ultimately, we were lucky enough to get a chance to get a big right-shot defenseman who can really pass the puck and has great hockey sense. Not only does that make him a really good prospect, it addresses a need that we have and that's another right-handed shot, puck-moving defenseman."

Video: Lightning draft D Callan Foote No. 14

Foote is the son of former Colorado Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote.

"You just get chills," the younger Foote said about hearing his name called at Friday's draft. "I didn't really believe it at first. It was special to give my parents a hug. It's an unbelievable feeling. I can't describe it."

Foote said he didn't get much sleep Thursday night, tossing and turning at the thought of getting drafted into the NHL.

Joining the Lightning and getting the chance to learn from Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman buoyed Foote's excitement on Friday.

"They've had quite a bit of success the past few years," Foote said. "I'm excited to meet those guys."

Foote is an offensively-gifted defenseman with size to boot. Coming in at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he has a NHL-ready body already at just 18 years of age.

He's a very smart player," Yzerman said. "He sees the ice. He gets it, he moves it. When he's eventually ready to play on our team, our forwards are going to really enjoy him. He gets the puck. He moves it up to the forwards."

Foote has played for the Kelowna Rockets the past two seasons and was nearly a point-per-game producer in the 2016-17 regular season, with 51 assists and 57 points (71 games) while a plus-39, all career highs. In the playoffs, Foote recorded a goal and six assists in 14 contests.

Video: Caley Chelios and Bryan Burns preview the NHL Draft

The previous season with the Rockets, Foote notched eight goals and 28 assists and was plus-16.

"I think (my offensive game) has grown quite a bit in the last few seasons, especially in the WHL," Foote said. "I think that once I got my feet wet and got used to the speed and the size in the Western League, I definitely like to jump up into the play and add more to the offense."

Foote can play in all situations too, and the Lightning are certainly excited about the prospects of developing the special teams qualities of his game too.

"He plays in all situations. He plays on the power play. He can shoot it, and he sees the ice. He moves it really well.

Again, just a good all-around defenseman. He's got some work to do before he's ready to play in the NHL, but there's certainly a nice package there of skills. We think he'll have an opportunity to be on the power play as he develops and he'll kill penalties, a big strong guy with big feet that will get in shooting lanes. We expect him to play in all situations. It's just going to take some time."

Yzerman certainly has plenty of experience with the Foote family, the Red Wings and Adam Foote's Avalanche part of a legendary, contentious rivalry in the late 90s. Adam Foote won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001, defeating Yzerman's Red Wings in the Western Conference Final during the run in 1996.

Yzerman said Cal Foote displays some of the same traits as his father but is his own person.

"He's a different player from his dad, but he's a big, strong guy," Yzerman said. "Adam Foote was mean. He was a good player, a great skater. He was mean. I would think in watching Cal, he's a little bit more understated. He'd probably have a little bit more offense to his game. But he's big and strong. The game is changed today. You can't play the way that (Adam Foote) did in the 90s. Positionally, (Cal's) very smart. He leans on people. So a little bit different player than his dad, but you see similarity in the skating stride and his posture."

Cal Foote said it was "a special feeling" to walk into the room and talk to Yzerman during pre-draft scouting meetings, and it was "awesome" to meet him.

Video: Callan and Adam Foote on joining the Lightning

Did his father have any Yzerman stories to tell him?

"I haven't heard many, but I'm sure I'll hear much more now," Foote joked.

Added Yzerman: "He comes from a very good family. I know his mother and father, played against Adam obviously and played with him in some international competitions. Really good family, high character young man, bright, personable. I think all of our fans and media will enjoy spending time with him. As far as the person and character, we're delighted with that as well."

Foote said he'll go back to Kelowna and continue to develop as much as possible. He said his number one focus for the upcoming season is quicker feet.

As for making his way to Tampa, Foote said he's never been but already knows a thing or two about the city.

"All I know is it's hot, and I'll need my sandals and shorts," Foote said. "I'm very excited to get down there."

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