Tyson Foerster has several strengths to his game, but anyone who has watched the Barrie Colts forward over the last two seasons knows if he has a calling card it’s that booming shot.
Whether it was stepping over the blue line and unleashing a hard drive or his signature one-timers from just inside the faceoff circle, Foerster’s hammer has him heading into Tuesday’s 2020 NHL Entry Draft as one of the top available prospects.
Glen Foerster is quite familiar with that slap shot. After all the family home paid quite a price over the last 13 or so years for his son honing that howitzer.
“We still have holes in the garage door from both boys shooting pucks,” he said of the countless shots fired by Tyson and his older brother Dawson at their Alliston home. “On the floor in our basement we had painted a rink on there, so they would always go down there. When they were really little they started with mini-sticks and then they went to the real sticks.
“We got them shooting pads and I don’t know how many thousands of shots they shot down there.”
The nets took a beating.
“At one point, both nets we had the posts were absolutely flattened,” the father said before laughing out loud. “I had a picture of these nets at one point. We ended up getting rid of them a few years ago, but it’s pretty crazy the amount of pucks that were shot at those things.”
Foerster chuckles when asked about the damage he and Dawson did growing up working on their shots.
“It was either the garage door or my basement,” he said. “We had an unfinished basement, so me and my brother used to go down there and shoot pucks. Even outside, when it was warm enough to go shoot outside, we were always doing something involving hockey. I think that helped a lot.”
Did it ever. All those shots weren’t for nothing. Over his two seasons in Barrie, Foerster has developed not only into one of the OHL’s top snipers, but the six-foot-two, 194-pound winger is one of the top goal scorers available in this year’s draft.
“Out of the whole draft group, he is one of the best pure finishers,” one NHL Eastern Conference Scout told Barrie 360. “When he got the puck on his stick in a prime scoring area, there’s a very good chance that’s going in the net. Every time he got the puck in those areas, it was a threat. There’s times a lot of good players will throw the puck on net or they’ll wire it, but he’s a guy every shot was with a purpose of scoring.
“I know that sounds funny, but that’s just the way it is in hockey. Every time he has the puck in that area, he was a threat to score. That’s the basis of his game and as his year went on he started rounding out some of the other things that make him so much more attractive.”
While this year’s draft will be done virtually for the first time in NHL history because of the COVID-19 pandemic and there’ll be none of the traditional heading to the podium to slip on the team jersey and hat, Foerster isn’t letting any of that take away from how special a night it will be for him, his family and friends.
Normally scheduled for late June, NHL prospects have had to patiently wait for their dreams to come true this year. Foerster’s happy and excited that day is finally just around the corner.
“Time’s kind of flying by now knowing when the actual date is, so it should be good,” Barrie’s third-round pick (55th overall) in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection said.
For Glen, wife Sheri and kids Dawson and Kali, the opportunity for them to watch Tyson play and develop in his hometown has meant the world and now to see his dream come true will be a day the family won’t soon forget.
“It’s a pretty exciting time,” the proud father said. “There’s going to be a few tears I think. The thing I told him is there’s not many kids that get an opportunity to do what you’re doing as a job. I think he’s absolutely taken advantage of it and just enjoying the whole process.”
A solid rookie performance with 10 goals and 13 assists in 64 games drew attention to Foerster’s game, but it was his play last year that put Foerster on the draft radar. He got off to a strong start playing with Carolina Hurricanes top prospect and former teammate Ryan Suzuki, but it was after a busy trade deadline where the Colts unloaded several veterans, including Suzuki, that Foerster showed that he could lead the young team.
The forward paced Barrie in scoring with 36 goals and 44 assists for 80 points in 62 games and helped Barrie push the Sudbury Wolves for the Central Division title before COVID-19 shut down the league.
A six-point effort early in the season provided a ton of confidence.
“After my first year, I knew what I could do,” Foerster explained. “Just playing more than I did in my first year kind of gave me more and more confidence. Obviously putting the puck in the net gave me more confidence too, so I think that always helps.”
The sniper was determined to play a leading role with the Colts and prove he could be that top player. Foerster’s development over the year didn’t go unnoticed by NHL scouts. He would climb 20 spots on the NHL Central Scouting Final 2020 Draft Rankings to place No. 21 overall among North American skaters.
“He has the look of that guy that wants the puck,” the NHL Eastern Scout said of Foerster. “When they’re on the attack and he’s crossing centre ice, he’s the guy that wants to score and he’s going to work himself into those positions. Everyone wants to score, but there are some guys that have a little bit more hunger and kind of relish being in that situation.
“There’s some situations this year that everyone in the building knew he was going to get the puck and the opposition knew (his teammates) were trying to get him the puck and he still managed to get into the right spot and get the puck and finish. That’s elite. Someone who does that is special in that regard.”
His true coming out party likely came in the CHL Top Prospects Game in mid-January. With all the pressure that comes with playing against the top junior prospects in the world and having some 300 scouts in the building in Hamilton, Foerster would shine and earn Team White player of the game honours after scoring twice and adding an assist in 5-3 win over Team Red.
“You have GMs, you have scouting directors, it’s a big stage,” added the NHL scout. “It is just one game and it is just one part of the process. A guy’s not going to really hurt his draft stock in a game like that, but I think a guy can help his draft stock.
“When you go back and take a look and see him doing it during the regular season it’s just another piece of the puzzle that if you have a positive experience and good game it helps you. That’s the simple truth of the matter.”
Foerster said he tried to enjoy this past season, despite all he pressure that comes with being in your draft year, but he points out he had some help along the way from his family and teammates.
“(Suzuki) really helped me before he left,” he said of his former linemate. “He told me a whole bunch. Our chemistry really grew and we became closer. Yeah, my teammates and my family really helped me a lot just enjoying it. It only happens once.”
And as for which team Foerster wants to hear call his name, well that simply doesn’t matter.
“That’s the question everybody asks me,” said Foerster, who is expected to be a later first-round pick. “What team do you want to go to, where do you want to go? The answer is always the same, I don’t really care. It’s always been a dream of mine since I was kid just getting drafted, so I think it’s going to be an honour no matter where I go.”
Foerster won’t be the only local player to be selected over Tuesday and Wednesday’s NHL draft. Colts centre Evan Vierling is ranked 66th overall among North American skaters, while teammate Ethan Cardwell is right behind him at 70th overall. Winger Anthony Tabak, listed at 199th overall, could also hear his name called.
Barrie native and Sudbury Wolves defenceman Isaak Phillips is listed as 114th overall on the final rankings, while former Colt Riley Piercey is ranked 129th overall. Barrie Colts minor midget graduate James Hardie, a forward with the Mississauga Steelheads, is ranked 163rd overall, while former Colts minor midget graduate and Ottawa 67’s defenceman Alec Belanger could also be drafted.