A lot is made of the grind that comes with an AHL season. From the high volume of games to the tedious travel, it’s a grueling endeavor, especially for prospects hitting the pro level for the first time.
“You don’t really think about it heading into the year but after experiencing the grind and how much hockey we play, it’s a huge learning curve,” said Warren Foegele. “I think I personally realized that halfway through the year. It’s a long season.”
But when you have a rookie season like Foegele did, that grind is well worth it.
The forward hit the ground running – he produced four goals in his first two pro games and was up to 12 by contest number 20 – and never slowed down, putting up the most prolific goal-scoring campaign by a rookie in franchise history.
Ever the team player, Foegele is quick to spread the credit for his historic season.
“I worked well with my linemates,” he said. “I was able to get some lucky bounces and take it to the net and use my speed. I think my speed is one of my biggest attributes and my willingness to work and work with my teammates. As a collective group I thought we achieved a lot and that was big for us as a team.”
Foegele found himself in a unique situation throughout the year. Given the staggering depth the Checkers possessed, the 22-year-old was primarily utilized on the fourth line – though the coaching staff was adamant all season about the equal talent and trust they had in all four lines – and the penalty kill while garnering little to no time on the power play.
That never seemed to affect the young forward, who flourished in those roles and was seemingly able to produce from any spot in the lineup.
“All I can do is control what I do and help the team win,” said Foegele. “We had the most goals in the league so everyone found a way to contribute. For me it was just about sticking to the simple things and working hard and good things happened.”
Foegele’s strong play and positive demeanor definitely left an impact on the coaching staff.
“He’s a winner,” said head coach Mike Vellucci. “He’s got energy and he hates to lose and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win. I’m very proud of the way he played this year.”
A head-turning rookie season was capped off by Foegele’s first NHL recall in late March. In an unforgettable debut with Carolina the rookie lit the lamp and added an assist, then followed it up the next night with another goal on the road.
“I don’t really know what to say about it,” said Foegele. “It was awesome. Everyone dreams of scoring in their first game. To score on my first shot was really cool and I’m grateful for just getting there with all the help and support I had from my coaches and teammates and my parents. It was a pretty humbling night and something that I’ll remember forever.”
That explosive introduction to the next level now has Foegele’s aim set on a full-time role with the Hurricanes.
“I need to get stronger and be able to protect the puck more, use my size to my advantage,” said he said. “Just get bigger and stronger and keep working on my hockey skills.”
From someone who watched Foegele tear up the AHL in year one, that goal isn’t far out of reach.
“He’s going to do whatever it takes to make it to the National Hockey League,” said Vellucci.