In a year where major junior is poised to dominate the draft, the CHL Top Prospects Game offered a buffet of talent, from Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield to Jamie Drysdale and Cole Perfetti. But the kid who stole the show was Barrie Colts right winger Tyson Foerster, who paced Team White with two goals and three points in a 5-3 win over Team Red in Hamilton.
The statement goal of the game came in the second period when Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Ryan O’Rourke sprinted the puck up the ice, then dropped a pass back to Brandon Wheat Kings left winger Ridly Greig. Then he drop-passed to Kamloops Blazers center Connor Zary, who found Foerster open on the right side for a big-time snipe.
Post-game, Foerster was still buzzing over the sequence and was waiting for a chance to see the replay.
“I haven’t seen it yet, but I want to,” he said. “We were talking about it on the bench, saying ‘Who touched it? Who touched it?’ ”
Foerster wasn’t a big draft name coming into the season, but he got off to a hot start in Barrie, notching a six-point game against Mississauga in late September and consistently putting up points from there thanks to his wicked shot. The Colts traded away NHL prospects Ryan Suzuki (Carolina) and Matej Pekar (Buffalo) before the deadline, so the onus is really on Foerster now – he’s the team’s top scorer with 48 points in 38 games and 20 points clear of the next-highest scorer on the club.
“We’re a really young team,” Foerster said. “So we have to work way harder than the other team and hopefully we can come out on top in games. Without Suzuki it’s going to be tough but I have some really good linemates.”
At the least, his former teammate has been putting the word out for him.
“I was talking to Ryan Suzuki earlier in the week and he was telling me I would love playing with Foerster,” Zary said. “Something clicked there tonight and everything worked out well.”
Foerster has already blown past the 23 points he put up as a rookie in Barrie, so how did he get so much better so quickly? As with most players, it didn’t happen overnight. Foerster was 5-foot-9 and completely unsculpted at the start of his minor midget year, but working with Aaron Downey, the strength and conditioning coach and former NHLer, has paid dividends recently.
“My skating has really improved; I had a big summer with Aaron Downey,” Foerster said. “And obviously my confidence with the puck and without it. I’m playing a lot more this year and that gives me more confidence.”
He also has a pretty good support network. Foerster had an estimated 44 friends and family at the Top Prospects Game and as a kid who grew up in the Barrie area, playing for the Barrie Jr. Colts, getting drafted to play for the hometown team has been very beneficial.
“It’s really good,” he said. “I think it’s easier for me than say, a guy from the Soo. I get to see my family way more so it’s easier to play there.”
Coming in at nearly 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds now, Foerster certainly has the frame to compete in the NHL and as he continues to round out his game, he’ll become even more of a weapon. As of now, he looks like a pretty solid top-40 pick in the draft. While the Colts no longer have the horses (no pun intended) for a long playoff run, the upshot is that Foerster will likely be available for international duty with Team Canada when the world under-18s hit Michigan in late April. It will be a big stage with tons of scouts watching, but if Foerster’s performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game is any indication, he’ll be ready for the challenge.