When the Barrie Colts made the tough decision to head into a rebuild at the 2019-20 OHL Trade deadline, the focus of the moves was making this the year they would take a run at an OHL title.
While the Colts head into this 2021-22 season as arguably the favourites in the Eastern Conference, any serious run will likely have to happen without their top player leading the way.
That’s because it appears Tyson Foerster’s days in junior hockey are over. The Philadelphia Flyers 2021 first-round pick has served notice he’s ready for the pro level.
“I really think Foerster is going to start at some level there, whether it’s pro (with the Flyers) or the American Hockey League (AHL),” Colts general manager and head coach Marty Williamson said. “I think we really need to move on.”
Had it not been for the pandemic, Foerster would likely be gearing up for a big year with the Colts. That all changed when the OHL season was cancelled and the six-foot-one, 193-pound winger was allowed to suit up for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.
Squeezed in between a pair of injuries, the Alliston native impressed the Flyers brass with his strong play and 10 goals and 7 assists in 21 games with the Phantoms.
While normally top prospects under 20 years of age must be returned to junior if they don’t make the NHL, the league is allowing eligible players who played more than 20 professional games to play this season in the AHL.
“I think we need to look past Tyson and focus on the group we have,” Williamson said.
Philadelphia could make Foerster available for this year’s World Juniors and there could be some question where Foerster returns to finish out the second half of the season.
While Williamson isn’t expecting his big scoring winger to return, he admits that certainly would make for a nice late Christmas present.
“If we happen to get a present later in the year, that’s a fantastic trade and addition to us,” he said. “We know we’d love to have him.”
Foerster isn’t the only Colt making noise at NHL camp these days.
Second-round CHL Import Draft pick and Swedish prospect Oskar Olausson is making quite the first impression with the Colorado Avalanche.
The 2021 NHL first-round pick has already scored in each of his first two exhibition games with the Avalanche. Once considered a sure bet to return next week to Barrie, Olausson is making the Avalanche take a long, hard look at keeping him.
“He scored in both NHL games that he played in and they have been very impressed,” Williamson said. “I think it was 100 per cent he was coming back and now it’s 50/50.
“He’s done a real good job. Those are the things that are out of our control. We’re a development league, and we drafted a good player and if it happens he’s good enough to start at that (NHL) level, so be it. We would love to have him.”
feature image: Tyson Foerster – Terry Wilson, OHL Images