Warren Foegele has taken advantage of a golden opportunity to play a part in the resurgence of the Carolina Hurricanes this season.
"Obviously, with the trade of Jeff Skinner (to the Buffalo Sabres on Aug. 2), there was a spot open and I knew that going into training camp," Foegele said. "I knew that if I came in, worked hard, chipped in offensively and just proved my work ethic that maybe things would work out."
Things have worked out for the 22-year-old left wing and the Hurricanes (39-25-7), who hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and are vying for their first postseason berth since 2008-09. Foegele has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) and is averaging 12:51 of ice time in 69 games. He's second among rookies in minor penalties drawn (26), tied for fifth in takeaways (32) and sixth in hits (114) in a fourth-line role.
Video: CAR@NYR: Foegele beats Lundqvist on wrister from slot
"He's got speed, and the guys that can skate and are willing to be physical have an impact whether they're on the score sheet or not, and that's what he's done," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "He's always in on the forecheck and is creating a lot of havoc."
General manager Don Waddell remembers Foegele never being out of place during the preseason. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound left-hand shot finished second on the Hurricanes with seven points (one goal, six assists) and a plus-7 rating in five games.
"He came into camp and proved to us that he wanted to be a regular NHL player and he was one of our bubble guys in the summer," Waddell said. "We knew we had two or three spots that six or seven players would be competing for and he came into camp and won the job. You've got to give the player a lot of credit for that. He was determined from the first day of practice through every exhibition game, and he played to show us what he was capable of doing."
Foegele took an unusual path to the NHL, going from the Canadian high school ranks, to the University of New Hampshire, to playing for two teams in the Ontario Hockey League and then for Charlotte of the American Hockey League.
"If you told me in 2014 that I would jump from high school, to college, to OHL, to one year in the AHL, there's no way I would have pictured it like this or how quickly it went," Foegele said. "But everything happens for a reason and I'm glad I went through those experiences to get to where I am."
Selected by the Hurricanes in the third round (No. 67) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Foegele said he took a little bit from each stop to become a better player. He played three seasons of high school hockey at St. Andrew's College, a university preparatory school in Aurora, Ontario, before entering New Hampshire as a true freshman in 2014-15.
"I learned a lot about myself off the ice in college," Foegele said. "I was 18 and had never been away from home, so I think that was the biggest adjustment. Just learning to live on my own and playing against men as well. I had just come from playing high school so that was adjustment."
Foegele had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 39 NCAA games before heading to the OHL to play for Kingston, which chose him in the seventh round of the 2014 OHL draft.
Video: OTT@CAR: Foegele scores off turnover
"I thought it was the right choice for my hockey career moving forward," Foegele said. "I had a great coach in (current Florida Panthers assistant) Paul McFarland and we had a really good group. I played with Michael Dal Colle (New York Islanders), Lawson Crouse (Arizona Coyotes) and Roland McKeown (Hurricanes). It was a good adjustment for me and helped me regain my confidence again."
Foegele had 79 points (24 goals, 55 assists) in 80 games with Kingston before being traded to Erie on Jan. 2, 2017. He had 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 33 regular-season games and 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 22 OHL playoff games to help the Otters to the league championship. Erie lost 4-3 to Windsor in the 2017 Memorial Cup final.
"There was a so much talent on that Erie team with Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks), Dylan Strome (Blackhawks), Anthony Cirelli (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Taylor Raddysh (Lightning)," Foegele said. "It was a close group and it helped me learn what it takes to win. We dug in and it just showed that you always need to be a tight group and need to believe, so that was a big learning curve for me."
Foegele had 46 points (28 goals, 18 assists) in 73 games for Charlotte in 2017-18 before joining the Hurricanes for two games late in the season. He had three points (two goals, one assist).
"He had 28 goals in the AHL and came up and played a few games and we knew that whether he made the team out of camp or not, he would play this year for us," Waddell said. "I always say players make our decisions easy and that was a positive one because he made it easy for us to keep him."