Frank Carnevale said he wasn’t kidding.
Boy, wasn’t he kidding.
As Tyson Foerster fired a laser past three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury, with the screeching sound of the puck ricocheting off the iron and into the net, it was abundantly clear that Carnevale wasn’t kidding.
“I don’t think there’s a guy on this team right now — I think about it — that can shoot like him,” he said.
Carnevale saw the hitting, the puck and the maturation come together for Foerster at the junior hockey level. He was director of player personnel for the Barrie Colts when they selected Foerster in the third round of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection Draft.
In the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Flyers took Foerster 23rd overall. And now they’re seeing some early promise as the punch-seeking wing gets his feet wet at the NHL level.
With the Flyers missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and very much in the process of rebuilding, Foerster earned the opportunity to show the big club’s coaching staff a glimpse of his game. His audition in March reached a new high on Thursday night when Foerster forced extra time with an eye-opening goal.
“I just passed out after that,” Foerster said Friday with a smile. “We were down 4-3. It felt really good just to score that goal.”
He beat Fleury with a perfect shot with 5:44 left in the third period, giving the Flyers a chance to eventually eliminate the Wild 5-4 in a shootout at the Wells Fargo Center.
“The kid, he just has some personality with the puck and really great dribbling with the puck,” Flyers head coach John Tortorella said Friday. “Another really big game for him.
“He’s a very astute young man when it comes to the game.”
Foerster made his NHL debut just over two weeks ago and went scoreless with a minus-3 in his first three games. Since then, he’s moved up a notch in the scoring charts, recording six points (two goals, four assists) and a plus-4 rating in the last four games.
“One thing’s for sure, he needs some time to get used to the level,” Carnevale said in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia on the day of Foerster’s NHL debut. “When he got to the OHL he was just feeling everything and then midway through the year he just started dominating because of his weight and his shot.
“He seems to have done that in the American League as well. He reached the level and then reached the top. That’s what we saw… Just great hitting and racing.
“I think he’s at the point where he has the qualities to be an NHL player, but he’s going to need some time to get used to it. That’s just the way he’s done it at every level.”
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound right-shot wing posted a 57-point jump from Year 1 to Year 2 with the Colts.
“My first year at Barrie, I didn’t have to be anything crazy out there,” Foerster said. “But I started off a bit slow and kind of got my confidence back. And once I get my confidence back, it feels amazing.”
The Colts had Foerster in the slot on the power play, but the wing liked to shoot from the circles. So Barry wisely adjusted.
“We put it where [Alex] Ovechkin was, and he was beautiful,” said Carnevale, who now runs a well-known summer league. “Just the one-time player where teams had to stay on his side. He definitely has a professional shot.”
That’s a big reason why the Flyers drafted Foerster, who had roughness in other areas, but the shot was advanced. The organization desperately needed more pure shooters from the circles, guys who can beat a goaltender on their own.
Carnevale knows he has a high degree of trust – even arrogance – in Foerster. Watch the 21-year-old in training and you will see that he loves to talk, smile and have fun. Carnevale acknowledged that Foerster will have to balance bravado with work ethic.
“They have to get it out of themselves, coming out of [OHL] where you play all the time,” Carnevale said. “And he had it. He would get a little cocky. I had conversations with him like, “Shut the hell up and play.”
“Tortorella will not put up with this. I talked with [Foerster] in the summer too, a little bit and it’s just like, “Son, just play. Use your body, take your chance. Don’t worry about scoring goals because they don’t come easily. When they start coming, then good. But if you don’t work hard, you won’t.
“In the NHL, he’s a top-6 player. He’s not going to start there, so he’s going to have to get that work ethic and compete. And Tortorella is going to make him do that, isn’t he?’
Top prospect to play with upside and moxie is not a bad thing. These characteristics can go a long way in a player who thrives under pressure.
Tortorella likes a player with personality. Foerster opened his eyes in just seven games.
“We’re starting to build a foundation,” the head coach said Tuesday of the Flyers’ rebuild. “It’s really encouraging to me and I’ve said it many times with this Tyson boy. I try to be careful, but every time I look at it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s one guy, there’s another piece that maybe falls into place next year for us.’
The Flyers plan to soon send Foerster and potential defenseman Egor Zamula back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley for the Phantoms’ playoff push. Tortorella said Friday that both players will get one more game with the Flyers on Saturday against the Red Wings (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP). The Flyers will then determine when to have them rejoin the Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms won’t have Foerster or Zamula for Saturday’s game, but Sunday could be a possibility.
Did Foerster make the decision more difficult?
“No, no,” Tortorella said Tuesday. “Because it’s too important … it’s such a great process if they win some rounds down there for him to go there and go through it. This is very important for his development.”
Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Tailor | Art19 | YouTube