After being drafted with the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Tyson Foerster would endure a bumpy road. Unlike many before him, his junior season was ripped away due to the effects of COVID-19, opening up AHL play with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. One year later, he’s back to show what he’s learned and spoke with reporters to reflect on his opening season as a professional.
2020 was a year of setbacks for Foerster. The man who led the Barrie Colts in points during his second season ended up suffering several injuries throughout his opening AHL campaign, with the first coming in the very first game of the season, sidelining him for six weeks.. The then-19-year-old had no choice but to pick himself back up.
Yeah, I think at the start of the year it was tough going down with an injury in the first game of the season. I thought I played really well that game. After camp, obviously, I was ready, and I was in my best health. After I got back after the six weeks that I was out, I felt I wasn’t there. I had to wear a knee brace. My lungs weren’t there. I wasn’t in the best shape. After a couple games there, I kind of got my groove back. I started playing well. The boys around me helped a lot. We were a family there and I thought I was playing really good by the end of it.
He did exactly that and would end up posting 17 points through 24 games, which is worth noting. His skating, arguably his weakest asset, was always going to be challenged to a higher degree in a professional league and while there were some steep learning curves, the experience of playing against men who have experienced NHL play, while learning from vets on the team proved to be invaluable.
When asked about the 2020 campaign, Foerster referenced both Cal O’Reilly and Garrett Wilson as mentors. We know that Alain Vigneault places a lot of value in veteran leadership, and you only have to look as far as Chuck Fletcher’s track-record of offseason additions that have played under the Flyers head Coach. As far as developing a sharpshooter like Tyson Foerster goes, knowing he’s playing and learning from proven veterans, something that was otherwise off the cards, will go a long way in expediting his growth.
He now enters development camp with a healed shoulder and a year of trials and tribulations behind him. He’ll still be one of the youngest players in the entire league, but will enter his second season with a renewed sense of confidence if granted the opportunity. It would validate his form in what was a turbulent year and the faith that both coaching staffs have in him.
Unfazed by the idea of an AHL return, The former first-round pick has hit development camp with a spring in his step and flaunting his electric shooting ability. After a year of playing against older, stronger players, he’s reportedly attacking the Ice with an increased level of physicality which is only adding to his game.
I think it’d be huge for me to go back there. That’s really out of my control. I’m just going to try and prove myself at camp.
While an AHL return seems likely, Foerster isn’t getting complacent. Having gotten through the worst of the storm, he can now go back to finish what he started with the Phantoms last year, making the most of a unique road to the pros and further preparing himself for an eventual NHL jump.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre