Had 2020-21 been like any other year, Jean-Luc Foudy would have been ripping apart the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires.
Instead, he called two places in unfamiliar territory home: Mörrum and Colorado.
Colorado, of course, is the city that drafted Foudy in the third round in 2020, and it's also the home of the franchise's AHL team, the Eagles. But Mörrum is a bit different. It's a small area in Sweden with just under 4,000 residents in the third Swedish hockey league. Not a typical proving ground for junior-aged prospects already affiliated with NHL clubs, but it was Foudy's reality in a COVID-stricken world.
When the North American hockey season resumed, Foudy had the unusual opportunity to play in the AHL to finish out the season. Usually, players that are still eligible to participate in the CHL that weren't born in Europe have to remain in the junior league instead of going to the second-ring series. But those restrictions were lifted once it was clear the OHL was never going to hit the ice, with many top players - such as Los Angeles' Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev, Nashville's Philip Tomasino and Winnipeg's Cole Perfetti, among others - getting the chance to ply their craft in the AHL instead.
Foudy was one of the more interesting options, solely because he wasn't a first-round prospect like the rest. But the Avalanche clearly think highly of the speedy, skilled center that fell a little deeper in the draft than most expected.
The talent was clearly there, but his numbers - which saw him go from 49 points as a rookie to 43 as an OHL sophomore - weren't at the level most expected. Foudy played fairly well with the Eagles, recording three goals and 14 points in 34 games for fourth in team scoring. That's not too shabby, especially since he was the youngest player on the team as the only 2002-born player.
That experience should help Foudy get accumulated to the Avalanche in a big way in 2021-22, entering his first camp action with the team this week.
"(Last season) was nice because I got introduced to all the staff in Colorado and with the Eagles as well," Foudy said. "I feel like it put me a step ahead. Just coming here, you kind of already know a lot of people. So it has helped a lot."
With the odd year that was the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign, Foudy is taking part in his first NHL development camp with the Avalanche, something he would have done a year ago under normal circumstances.
"It's been great. So far, everyone here has been welcoming," Foudy said about his camp experience. "There's a lot of staff here that you can learn from and some players that are maybe older than you that you can learn from."
Foudy isn't expected to make the Avalanche this year, but should return to the Eagles as a second-year player according to assistant GM Craig Billington.
"He seemed to get better at handling stronger, physical competition as the season went on," a scout said. "I think he also started to figure out the defensive part of his game as he continued to work with pro coaches. That was a major weakness in his game a few years ago."
Foudy, the younger brother of Columbus forward Liam Foudy and CFL defensive back Sean Foudy, is one of the better prospects in an already strong prospect group. Sticking in the city with the team's farm club should help him remain fresh in GM Joe Sakic's mind.
"Foudy could be one of the steals of the strong 2020 draft," a scout said. "He was the best skater that year. He can absolutely fly and his passing game holds up well at a high pace."