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NHL Draft

Callan Foote following in father's footsteps

Son of former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote making name for himself

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2017 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Callan Foote of Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, one of the top defensemen eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft, stands out for a number of reasons.

But the No. 1 thing people seem to notice about him are his feet.

"He's got something like size 16 or 17 feet, so he's working into those," Kelowna assistant general manager Lorne Frey said.

Said Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, who lived with Foote and his family during his first two NHL seasons, "The kid's had bigger feet than me from the time I've known him." 

When Duchene moved in, Foote was 10 years old.

Foote, who said his feet are size 16, has heard all manner of jokes about them, and even makes them himself. 

"No one in my family has overly big feet besides my brother [Nolan Foote, a 2018 draft prospect] and I," Foote said. "… We don't know why. It's just something that's been like that."

Oversized feet aside, Foote has NHL-ready size (6-foot-3, 213 pounds) and an evolving all-around game. In eight games this season, he leads Kelowna with five assists and a plus-8 rating, and he earned an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list.

"I think the best trait is his intelligence," Frey said. "He's very smart. Cerebral. He makes excellent decisions with the puck. And he's a very good defender in the sense that you can tell he's been well-schooled. He's very good defensively, he moves the puck exceptionally well. He's very intelligent. He has offensive ability as well (36 points in 71 games last season)."

Duchene occasionally would help coach Foote's youth hockey teams and saw that advanced skill set at an early age. 

"I remember one game I was on the bench and watching him, he was the top guy on the power play and he was quarterbacking the whole thing," Duchene said. "At a young age he was faking slap shots, sliding it over, giving the guy on the half wall more time. Little things you see elite pros do and he was doing it at a young age."

Foote said his favorite player growing up was his father, former defenseman Adam Foote, who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Avalanche during a 19-season NHL career. But Duchene was just as much of a role model. 

"It was really cool to see the bond that we developed with him and how good he was to us," Foote said. "Going to the rink and seeing him prepare was pretty cool, to see the different styles between him and my dad. But it was really cool to see how they both did it.

"I definitely do remember being with Matt and Gabriel [Landeskog] and guys like that, and looking up to them and being in shock. For me, I just sat back. I didn't really get in their way of what they're doing and kind of learned what to do. It was definitely a great experience and I'll always remember being in there with them."

Duchene said that bond still exists, even though their busy hockey schedules don't allow them to talk as often as they used to. 

"The three of us used to play for hours downstairs in the basement," Duchene said. "… They were the closest thing to brothers that I have. Pretty cool to see how well they're doing. I keep in touch with them quite often. Definitely wish them the best."

After playing two games for Omaha of the United States Hockey League in 2014-15, Foote joined Kelowna last season, mostly because of its history of developing elite NHL defensemen. Alums include Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens and Tyson Barrie of the Avalanche. 

"All those terrific players that came through there, it's hard to turn down that opportunity," he said. "You see all those great players go there and have success."

To increase his chance at success, Foote has been working on his skating. Getting around the ice with his big feet has been a point of emphasis. 

"One of the parts of my game that I need definite work on is my quick feet and my agility," he said. "I don't know if it comes from having overly big feet, but it's just something I need to improve. Definitely transitions, from forward to backward and going to get the puck, stuff like that."

Foote is also working on adding a physical edge to his game. Though blessed with his father's size and skills, he said he got more of his mother's temperament than the nastiness his father played with.

"My mom is just the sweetest person ever and my dad is more seen as the tough guy," he said. "I really think I do have my mom's personality, but I do want to get my dad's as well. So it's not really one or the other. It's both for me."

Frey has no doubt Foote will develop the physical side of his game as he matures. 

"It's coming," he said. "The physicality bit, last year in situations due to his age and strength, strength was a factor in certain situations. But that's coming. He probably played last year at 185 [pounds] and I think we're confident that that trait is going to kick in as he progresses physically. He'll acquire that trait as he moves along here." 

Foote has already done enough to earn recognition from Hockey Canada. He was the youngest player at the summer junior evaluation camp, the first step in picking the team that will play for Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal. Foote was born in Denver but has dual U.S.-Canada citizenship. 

"You look at him, he's got size, he's smart and you can see that he's willing," Canada coach Dominique Ducharme said during the camp. "He wants to be a player and he's learning quick."

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