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"If I don't do 'it', I don't become 'it'": Jean-Luc Foudy is chasing down his NHL dream

Meghan Angley Avatar
November 9, 2022

On March 4th of last year, 20-year-old Colorado Avalanche prospect Jean-Luc Foudy was scratched from the second of a three-game homestand against the San Diego Gulls. Colorado Eagles head coach, Greg Cronin said he wanted him to have a satellite view of his game to “open a door to potential he hasn’t walked through yet.”

The third-round pick from the 2020 draft has kicked off this season with nine points through ten games. He was reassigned from the Colorado Avalanche to the Eagles on September 29th, and the right-shot winger has played in the Eagles top-six with an opportunity on the top powerplay unit as well.

He rounded out last season with 26 points through 65 games. It was comparable to his pace from his shortened, rookie season during the pandemic, but there were notable differences.

He became a key contributor for the Eagles at critical moments in the Calder Cup Playoffs last season with two overtime-winning goals and was among the team leaders with 7 points in 9 games. 

Eagles captain and Foudy’s linemate, Jayson Megna, acknowledged this too.

“His play in the d-zone, his compete on loose puck battles – he’s been really reliable, and he’s out there late in games when we’re trying to get a goal back as well. That speaks to his development, the way that he’s gotten the coaches’ trust to put him out there in those types of situations.” 

He scored the overtime winner on his birthday in Game 2 of the Ontario series, and again with the OT winner over Stockton to force Game 4. In Tuesday’s game against the Texas Stars, Foudy scored a timely game-winning goal in the third period.

This jump in his play partially stemmed from the impact of that San Diego game Foudy sat out as well as one pivotal conversation. Around that time last year, former Eagles defenseman Dennis Gilbert met with Cronin to suggest a different value system for him.

Foudy entered the league in a unique position as a result of the canceled 2020 CHL season due to the pandemic. At 18, he jump-started his professional career in a league with veteran players over a decade older than him.

“I’ve heard people say that if you put guys in the American League that aren’t ready for it, then it can crush them because it’s a harder league than people think. It can hurt their confidence and if they can’t get their confidence back, they won’t realize their potential. But in Foudy’s case, I don’t know if I agree with that or not,” Cronin explained. “He doesn’t seem to lose his confidence. He’s stubborn to the point where his confidence sometimes supersedes his coachability.”

“You talk to him, he gets it, but he’s stubborn. When you’re younger, you have a lot of bad habits but you’re not mature enough to arrest them,” Cronin added. “[On recognizing his bad habits]: He knows, and he’s mature enough. Even though he’s 20, he knows, but he’s got to take the message and then convert it now. He could play in the NHL, but it’s gonna be a very random game for him. They want reliability.”

“Some guys aren’t smart, they just can’t do it because they can’t think quickly enough. Some guys are too slow, so they can’t get there. He’s neither not smart, nor slow. He has to take ownership of the changes as soon as possible,” he added. Cronin said Foudy was both emotionally and mentally mature.

An assessment of his developmental needs started with examining his strengths – the parts of his game he’d grown accustomed to counting on.

“His whole life he’s had the puck,” Cronin said. “He’s one of those kids that grew up [and] skated better than other kids did, handled the puck better. His identity was glued to his puck possession.”

“Gilbert’s suggestion was [to] change his value system [from] puck possession, to play away from the puck,” he added.

The idea was to get him to value his defensive zone responsibilities like backchecking, blocking shots, and face-off edge battles. It wasn’t new feedback, but the value system impressed upon him the importance of the decisions he makes away from the puck. 

“We sat him out of a game because he wasn’t valuing those things,” Cronin explained. The combination of changing the value system and having him sit a game made him do some self-reflection. There was a noticeable difference in the way he was playing away from the puck, and he’s carried that into this season.”

This critical element of his game was not entirely absent, but he needed a push. The suggestion of the value system was not exclusive to bolstering his defensive zone habits either. You may recall, other areas of his game to improve upon offensively included getting him to more dangerous areas of the ice.

He’s still a dominant puck carrier. His skating allows him time and space around the perimeter because he can evade defenders with ease.

Where other skaters thrive in open ice, Foudy also shines in escapes. With guys on his back and in tight spaces, he can slip off of people and drive inside ice.

“He’s a really strong skater in traffic areas, and he has open-ice skating skills because you see that on his breakaways,” said Cronin. “He’s got an element to his game that comes natural. If you watch him, he’ll get into a corner [and you think], ‘he’s not going to get through this guy,’ and he snakes his way through it and comes out on the other side.”

“That’s a talent. We do a lot of teaching on those in-fighting battles, but he’s got the ability to do it naturally.”

“You just always have to have your stick on the ice when you’re going to the net with Foudy on the ice,” Megna added. “He’s able to make some plays that not many guys can. He’s a really special playmaker. His skating, the way he’s able to kind of slip around guys out of corners and battles, is pretty special. You don’t find that every day.”

With a player as unique as Foudy, you don’t want to stifle the creativity that sets him apart. His identity is in flux, and he’s building upon what he knows. He’s the best traffic skater on the Eagles with a prominent role in their forward group.

He can generate offense. He’s finding new ways to score and adding those to his arsenal. In order to separate from his peers, he has to settle into an identity. By adding layers to his game, more impactful puck possession and more reliable decisions away from it, one begins to emerge.

Presently, Logan O’Connor is one player Cronin hopes Foudy will emulate.

“We were told he may never be more than a third-line AHL player. He had those natural gifts of his skating and his relentlessness on the forecheck/backcheck,” he said of O’Connor. “Foudy has come in here as a scorer – not like a goal scorer, but he’s a point scorer. He’s got more of a higher end in terms of generating the points. If we could mix in O’Connor’s relentless compete defensively with Foudy, he’s gonna be a really good NHL player.”

Notably, O’Connor has also solidified a role as a penalty kill specialist. Foudy has been tested on the PK and Cronin admitted it’s something they may revisit again.

Another player who springs to mind is Anaheim Ducks right-wing, Troy Terry. Terry is unafraid to drive to the netfront. He habitually drives inside home plate after making the pass from the goal line to the defense to get a stick on shots and collect rebounds. The traffic skating that Foudy does so well can get him there.

If he can apply that skating to get inside ice even when he doesn’t have the puck, he’ll become a greater scoring threat. Terry’s stickhandling is the strongest tool in his tool kit. His ability to pick off players makes him a capable puck carrier in tight spaces with endless tricks.

Foudy’s skating helps him in tight spaces coupled with his strong hand-eye coordination and creativity can put him within reach of a similar player profile.

“He doesn’t get a lot of rebound chances because he’s hanging on the outside,” said Cronin. “That’s the next layer of his offense that he’s got to really take ownership of. He’s still young. We all want him to do it now.”

That’s why it’s necessary for Foudy to live the value system. He can’t have a casual relationship with it.

“He’s not going to go from here to playing with Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen. He’s gonna have to work his way up,” Cronin explained. “Part of his development is getting him those fourth line habits that Dennis Gilbert talked about eight months ago.”

Last year, Cronin said “it takes a village” when it comes to Foudy’s development. It points to another system of accountability in place to help guide young players.

“There has got to be a comfort level that everybody has invested in the quality of life. It’s about behavior. What’s the expectation in that room? Who’s responsible for reinforcing that behavior? So how do we get Foudy to see the same standard that the rest of the players see in terms of compete level in all three zones, and then how do we hold him accountable to it? Not just the coaches, but the village.”

“Our culture is very strong in that you have a responsibility to make sure everybody is committed to the same standard. As coaches, we finesse the message through. It’s actually a disservice if guys aren’t reminding him, ‘That’s unacceptable.’ One reason why I think we’ve been successful here with the amount of turnover we have every year is because we have guys like Megna, Brad Hunt, and Ryan Wagner that have been around a while [and] are comfortable in that role. They build relationships in the room that makes that reminder a natural part of the way we operate.”

“A big reason that they have veterans in this league is to help bring along the younger guys and their development,” Megna said. “They can only hear so much from a coach before it becomes just another day at the office. If I tell him to make a play here and there, he seems to be a pretty quick learner, I never want to take away his creativity. I want him to play his game. But if I can help him at all in any way throughout his path to the NHL, I’m happy to do it.”

When asked about the sustained jump to start the season, Foudy attributed it to maturity.

“I think just getting older, more experienced now. It’s my third year, you’re just more comfortable and a lot more confident. That’s the biggest thing.”

Both Cronin and Megna acknowledged the undeniable progress he has made too.

“He’s way better,” Cronin noted. “His puck possessions are a little bit more productive, not just merry-go-rounding around the offensive zone.”

“He’s unbelievable. He’s such a good kid. To play as many games as he has already at such a young age and the way that he’s carried himself and gotten better every year, it speaks a lot to him as a person as well as a player,” said Megna. “He’s really fun to play with.”

A big year lies ahead for Foudy. His path to the NHL is still layered with necessary steps to round out his game. The healthy habits he implements will build upon a strong core bursting with exciting offensive upside especially as he continues to put up points with the Eagles.

“You can’t think yourself into good acting,” said Cronin. “You have to act yourself into good thinking. So you can sit on it and think all you want, watch video, but you have to actually do it to become it. We will repeat what we repeatedly do, not what we say we do. ‘If I don’t do it, I don’t become it.'”


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