Foote Impresses at First Crunch Practice

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Cal Foote got the full experience during his first day as a pro.

The new Syracuse Crunch defenseman was a part of the team's picture day before practice, and after he needed signed a slew of jerseys, sticks and other promotional items.

On the ice, he went through a full team practice and then was a part of a small group held afterward for extra conditioning drills.

Although it's not set when Foote will make his pro debut, Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx was impressed with the 19-year-old on day one.

"I like his calm out there. He seems to me that he looks like an old pro," Groulx said. "I like that."

Foote registered 19 goals and 51 assists in 60 regular season games with WHL Kelowna this season. The Denver native, who is the son of longtime NHLer Adam Foote, added six points in four postseason contests, but the Rockets were swept by the Tri-City Americans in the first round of the playoffs.

Over 238 career games in junior, Foote recorded 36 goals and 149 assists, and he also won gold with Team Canada in the last World Junior Championships. Still, the Tampa Bay Lightning's 14th overall draft pick in 2017 could see the difference in the level of play immediately.

"Coming from junior, I know it's a huge step up here," Foote said. "I think that it's going to be faster and it's going to be stronger. I just want to try to adjust to the speed and adjust to the physicality. If I can do that, I can have success."

That jump in levels was a part of the reason Foote was one of the players held after practice.

"To play in this league, it's all about pace and conditioning," Groulx said. "We feel that those guys need that. We've been doing this a lot with our team last year or this year. They need that. Our playoffs start in two weeks and we might need those kids from junior. They're not used to this pace, so they need to do extra."

Groulx has shown in the past he isn't hesitant to use junior players in big games. Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Brett Howden all suited up for the Crunch last season in the Calder Cup playoffs.

"That's up to them, but I'm going to try my hardest to be in the lineup," Foote said. "I'm just going to work at it every day to get better."

Foote believes he's ready to take the next step in his career.

"It was a long season and a long journey in the WHL, and now it's time to play here and try to learn and develop as much as I can," Foote said.

Pictured: Crunch defenseman Cal Foote shoots the puck during practice at the Onondaga County War Memorial Tuesday.