Tyson Foerster

PHILADELPHIA -- Tyson Foerster was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round (No. 23) of the 2020 NHL Draft in large part because of a dynamic shot that was considered by scouts to be one of the best among players in his draft class.

But the 22-year-old has earned a full-time role in the NHL because of all the other things he's excelled at away from the puck.

"The pro game, the change from junior to pro, it's a huge difference and a huge jump," Foerster said. "You've got to do everything right in pro. Junior, you can kind of go out there and score a couple of goals, but here it's a whole different thing. And it's your job, so you've got to do everything as hard as you can."

Foerster still is producing offensively. He scored his 20th goal in the Flyers' 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, tying him with Minnesota Wild forward Marco Rossi for second among NHL rookies, one behind Connor Bedard of the Blackhawks (21). He's the first Flyers rookie to score 20 goals since Matt Read had 24 in 2011-12.

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But it's play away from the puck that has him averaging 17:07 of ice time in 70 games, third among Flyers forwards.

"I don't remember a player that was equipped so quickly," Flyers coach John Tortorella said. "And that's here (his mind). That's what we have to teach, having them understand situational play, play away from the puck. I think he understood it pretty quickly."

Foerster said the transition from being an offense-first player to more of a well-rounded forward began last season with Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League, crediting coach Ian Laperriere and his staff as well as former Flyers development coach John Riley for helping him embrace his off-puck play. He also said it was easy for him to understand that being reliable when he wasn't scoring was just as important as putting the puck in the net.

"It's pretty much what they said, if you want to play a lot of minutes, you got to play both sides of the puck," Foerster said. "And it's just like your teammates, your teammates get fired up when you block a shot or something, so, I mean, that's a great feeling to have."

Scott Laughton was one of those teammates who saw Foerster's play away from the puck as a strength as early as last season, when he was recalled for eight games in March. Foerster had seven points (three goals, four assists) and a plus-2 even-strength goal differential.

"I think those games last year, the way he played and what he brought last year, and he scored a couple big goals for us, but that defensive side ... everything that he brought kind of cemented his spot here," Laughton said.

Foerster has carried that over into this season at a level that surprised Flyers management.

"To me it started right away, and certainly was more than we expected," Tortorella said. "As I've said all along, that's one of the biggest parts of our job as a coaching staff is to teach that part of the game to young players, away from the puck, positioning, all the things that come with that. He showed us that right away, that he had the mindset, the thinking, to be able to handle it."

Quantifying success with defensive play is more difficult than counting goals or points. Foerster has a plus-7 even-strength goal differential and 32 takeaways, each third among Flyers forwards, and his 45 blocked shots are sixth.

Video work with assistant coaches Rocky Thompson and Brad Shaw helps, but Foerster has a simple metric for knowing if he's doing things the right way without the puck.

"If you're winning games and you're not getting scored against, that's how I've thought about it," he said. "If I was not getting scored against, I thought I was doing something right."

The Flyers (36-29-10) will need Foerster to continue doing things right, with and without the puck, and contribute in different ways in their push make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2019-20. They've lost four in a row (0-3-1) and are percentage points behind the Washington Capitals for third in the Metropolitan Division, and two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

The New York Islanders visit Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSGSN, NBCSP).

"I think he's so good defensively with his stick, breaking up plays, blocking shots and doing all the little things that's going to keep him around a while if you go on a couple of dry spells and you don't score," Laughton said. "He's a really mature player for his age and what he brings, a big guy that gets in on the forecheck and kind of disrupts and is really fun to play with too."