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Interview: The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler talks about the new Blues prospect, Erik Foley

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When the Blues traded Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets, most of the talk centered around the first round draft pick coming St. Louis’ way. A couple years from now, they may realize the jewel in this 2018 deadline swap was the 20 year old prospect, Erik Foley.

The bare-bone facts about Foley are simple. He’s 6’0” and 185 pounds, and he’s currently a junior at Providence College, where he plays left wing. He will turn 21 years old right before free agency in the NHL starts up this summer, but hasn’t signed an entry level contract just yet. He remains in Massachusetts at the moment.

If he doesn’t sign a contract with the Blues, they will get a 2020 fourth round draft pick. Foley currently has 15 goals and 19 assists in 32 games for Providence. Let’s hope he inks a deal with the Blues.

Instead of keyboard-jerking my way through a half-hearted prospect analysis, I asked The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler about Foley and what he could potentially mean to the Blues.

St. Louis Game Time: If I am the average Blues fan, what can he/she expect from Foley? If he had a movie trailer, what’s the selling point about this kid?

Scott Wheeler: He’s your prototypical power forward. He plays a game where it’s just up and down the ice. He attacks the net and that’s who he is. He does one thing really well, and that’s attack the net.

STLGT: With the Blues getting younger each year, do you see Foley getting thrown in possibly this coming season?

Wheeler: I wouldn’t expect him this summer or coming season. I fully expect him to go back for his fourth year of college. As far as coming out of college and playing right away, I think it’s an option. He’s good enough. If he takes another step, he’d be in position. The Blues have other prospects like (Robert) Thomas and Klim Kostin, but I think he’s in that tier. I wouldn’t be surprised at the start of the 2019-20 season that he made the jump out of college-but I wouldn’t be surprised if he started at San Antonio. He has the skating abilities and the skills to be a depth player immediately, and work his way up an NHL lineup from there.

STLGT: One of the things I got excited about is Foley’s willingness to go the net. That’s something the Blues currently lack. A net front presence that wreaks havoc on the net.

Wheeler: I wouldn’t say he wreaks havoc on the net, but he definitely attacks the front of the net and can finish plays. He has good hands and isn’t shy. He won’t stick to the perimeter, but he isn’t a pest either. Foley won’t create chaos, but he will pick up a rebound and finish it off.

STLGT: Is there an NHL equivalent to Foley?

Wheeler: That’s an interesting question. I’m not generally a huge fan of comparing players, because they are so different and dynamic these days. It’s hard to put them in a box. I don’t think there is a player who plays exactly like him. There are guys who play a game from the wall in, like a Jakub Vorachek or Evander Kane, but Foley isn’t physically built like those players. I wouldn’t say he’s a ton like them, but he plays a similar game.

STLGT: Being 20 years old, do you think he can fill in and bulk up?

Wheeler: I think he can add a little. For his height, he has decent size and is a very athletic guy. I don’t seem him getting up to 210 pounds. There aren’t many of those in the NHL anymore. He can add a little strength.

STLGT: I’ve always been fascinated by the minor league grind. How is it seeing hockey players at their earliest stages?

Wheeler: It’s interesting to track their development. They change so quickly. In the span of two months, kids can look like completely different players. They can add ten pounds and two inches in height. It’s fascinating to see who has the tools to play in the NHL and who doesn’t.

STLGT: Doug Armstrong stood pat at the deadline after the Stastny deal, resisting the urge to deal his young prospects. Was that the right move?

Wheeler: Armstrong made the right move. If the Blues make the playoffs this year, they wouldn’t get past the first or second round. He used an asset that was going to be a pending UFA and turned it into two high end prospects. More teams would be smart to do that. I’ve always been of the opinion that teams trade top picks too willingly. We saw a lot of that on Monday. Armstrong made the right move in building for the future.

STLGT: The Blues took their shot two years ago, and have been quietly rebuilding since.

Wheeler: I don’t think there has to be a rebuild. There are a lot of good young pieces. If you really wanted to commit to a rebuild, you’d have to move guys like Tarasenko. That’s not going to happen. There are too many high-end pieces. They can get right back at it next year.

Things may look miserable right now for the Blues, but the future is bright. That won’t take away all the pain, but it will dull the bruise from the door when it slams you in the head.

By cashing out on Stastny, the Blues got a talented kid that analysts around the league are raving about along with a first round pick. I won’t start carving Foley’s bronze statue for placement outside 14th and Clark, but I love a 20 year old kid with some size and attitude.

Let’s hope he signs the contract and brings his hard hat to this cleanup.

If you subscribe to The Athletic (you should for Jeremy Rutherford’s content alone), here is Wheeler’s piece on Foley where he calls the kid one of the most underrated prospects in the NHL.

Thanks for reading and always buy more bourbon.