By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Welcome to the National Hockey League (NHL) Warren Foegele and thank you for your two-point (one goal, one assist) contribution to the Carolina Hurricanes’ 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena on Monday.
Scoring his first career goal playing in his first-ever NHL game was indeed memorable for the Hurricanes’ 2014 third-round pick (67th overall) and the 10,817 in attendance that included his parents, brother and girlfriend.
“It was a pretty surreal moment itself; something I’ll remember forever,” Foegele said.
It was a simple enough play for him to make after he wheeled out of the corner to Senators goalkeeper Craig Anderson’s left before sniping a shot past him.
In saying that, the poise and confidence he showed in going to the net with a shoot-first mentality was impressive.
He just followed the direction he was given.
“The best advice I got was just shoot it on net, so I just shot it and it just went in,” he pointed out.
Foegele’s progression has been a slow and steady one, and under the radar until the past year-and-a-half.
Attending each Carolina prospect camp since he was drafted, the six-foot-two-inch, 190-pound forward has made positive strides towards establishing himself as a pro since coming out of prep school, St. Andrews College, in Aurora, Ontario.
It hasn’t been quick, but he’s followed a gradual upward trend while working in the off-season with the likes of Gary Roberts, among others.
Heading into his first pro season, Foegele had built up his mindset to match his play.
Versatility builds confidence
As he wrapped up the first day at Carolina Hurricanes prospect camp back in late June, Foegele talked about what parts of his game he had worked on throughout his final junior hockey season.
He talked of becoming more versatile in his role on the 2017 Memorial Cup-finalist Erie Otters, moving up from a secondary role after coming in via a trade from the Kingston Frontenacs.
“I got promoted to first, second line and that really helped develop my skill game,” Foegele said.
“I think now I’m capable of playing on any line – either makin’ plays or keepin’ it simple.”
The Hurricanes left him alone to continue playing and progressing his game at his pace throughout 2016-2017.
“They just told me to go back to junior and play with confidence. They didn’t communicate (directly) with me that much. They just told me: “stick with the process – we wanna see you develop”. That just gave me more confidence and playing to my ability. I think confidence is a big reason for my success.”
Work hard and hope to make the ‘big’ club
Following Hurricanes training camp in September, Foegele simply stated the he intended to “just work hard and hopefully make the big club.”
“If they send me down, go to work down there, and hopefully they send me back up.”
Starting his pro career in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Charlotte Checkers, he lit the lamp in his first game as well.
By the time he was recalled on Sunday, the 21-year-old had posted 26 goals and 16 assists in 65 games with the Checkers and tied for seventh in the AHL in goals and first among AHL rookies in goals.
In addition, he was tied for first in game-winning goals (8), so it seemed that playing with confidence paid off and earned him the trip to Raleigh.
Welcome to The National
Foegele eventually made the most of his opportunity to make a first and lasting impression in the NHL but was a little unsure – just for a moment.
“I was a little nervous out there,” he admitted afterwards.
“It took me about the third shift to realize it was just another hockey game.”
Holding a game puck wrapped in taped with ‘1st NHL Goal’ written on it, the smile he held afterwards said it all.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport