2009 prospects: Marcus Foligno

By Joseph Cassidy

Marcus Foligno has a trifecta of attributes – size, skill and pedigree – that all NHL teams value in a draft prospect.

The 17-year-old left wing for the OHL Sudbury Wolves, turns 18 in August. He is a big, powerful player who continues to grow and according to his father Mike, a former NHL standout, Marcus has surpassed his father’s physical dimensions.

“Marcus is taller than I am right now; he is almost 6’3 and he’s over 200 pounds,” said Mike Foligno, the coach and general manager of the Sudbury Wolves who spent 15 seasons in the league. “When I turned professional (1979-80) I was only about 192 pounds.

“Marcus has a physical presence and loves to take the body. He understands the game and is solid that way but he has to continue sharpening his skills. He has grown into this role and always loved the physical aspect of the game.”

He is not shy about revealing his biggest asset and he knows that to be effective in the NHL he will have to use every inch of his 6’2 frame.

“I think my biggest skill is my size and what I can do on the forecheck,” said Marcus, who, in 65 games, has contributed 30 points (12 goals and 18 assists) in his second season of OHL play. “I use my strength to keep the puck away from opponents down low and also to drive to the net. I’m a physical player who loves to hit guys and make room for my teammates.”

The coaching staff is impressed with the young Foligno’s steady improvement and his eagerness to rough it up is evident with 96 penalty minutes (fifth on the team) this season.

“Marcus is a power forward and has the physical presence,” said Sudbury associate coach Bryan Verrault. “He works hard, competes and makes people pay the price. His work ethic is there and he brings it on every day. He will do anything to help the team and play any position we ask him to.”

In the 1979 entry draft, the Detroit Red Wings chose Mike Foligno in the first round (third overall). Twenty-seven years later, in 2006, the Ottawa Senators chose Mike’s son Nick Foligno in the first round (28th overall) of the entry draft.

“I think [Marcus] will be a low-round pick in the [2009 NHL Entry] Draft,” said Ed Burkholder, the head scout for the Toledo Walleye (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) of the ECHL. “I think the No. 1 thing everyone looks at is his size but I like his thought process in the offensive zone. He’s got a great shot but when you look at his what his father did (1,018 NHL games and 727 points) and what his brother is doing in Ottawa (67 games and 23 points in the 2008-09 NHL season), Marcus has great potential.

“If you look back at his dad’s career, he was an exceptional player and natural goal scorer. I see the same thing in Marcus; he will be a guy who can put the puck in the net or play a strong defensive role when he gets there.”

As everyone knows a hockey team is filled with mashers, grinders and finishers. Not every player is going to net 100 points in a season, but their contributions in other departments are keys to the team’s success. It is this intangible that makes Marcus a real “diamond in the rough” prospect.

“Marcus is big strong kid who is coming into his own this season,” said Sudbury associate coach Wade Bartley. “He works hard and has good skill. He has the willingness to work hard and loves the game. With the size and skill that he has, he is going to be a good player.”

The Foligno name is legendary in the Sudbury community and the Sudbury Wolves followed a proven recipe for success by drafting Marcus in the second round (39th overall) of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection Draft. His father Mike tallied 150 points for the Wolves in 1978-79 and older brother Nick fired 88 points for the Wolves in 2006-07.

“It’s great and there is a lot of hype going around (Sudbury),” said Marcus. “Obviously I am glad to continue the family tradition and I think it is great for the organization to have this family tradition there. Of course there is pressure with my brother and dad leaving a pretty big legacy with the Sudbury organization and both of them making it to the NHL.

“Overall it’s a great place to play hockey. We do hospital visits and get a chance to see and help children and people in our community.”

According to the pro scouts, pedigree can play a part of the decision process when a NHL team is drafting a player.

“I think he could go in the second round and it definitely helps to have a father and brother in the NHL,” said Buffalo Sabres Amateur Scout Iouri Khmylev. “He’s got his dad’s genes maybe.

“I think he has his own style, but he has to compete every shift and finish checks,” added Khmylev. “With the new (NHL) rules, defense is so important for young players and they have to perform in the defensive zone. To go from junior to the pro level is tough and training with pro players is different.”

“Absolutely [pedigree] makes a difference,” said a NHL scout who chose to remain unnamed. “But, we don’t draft someone who is less skilled because their father played in the NHL. If the two players are the same in skill, we would probably go with the player who has a father and brother in the league. I mean, we always look at a prospect’s parents and what they do.”

So the stage is set for the Foligno name to be called at another NHL Entry Draft. This time it will be at the Molson Centre in Montreal on June 26-27.

Currently the younger Marcus sits at 98th on the Central Scouting mid-term list of North American skaters which would see him go perhaps in the fourth round. ISS has him ranked 86th among all skaters.

“It’s a pretty big accomplishment to be on the [Central Scouting] draft list and it puts a smile on my face,” said Marcus. “I look forward to seeing what I can do when the pressure is on and the scouts are looking.

“I want any NHL team to know, I’m going to bring my all and will do anything for my team and my teammates.”

But that will still be a while in the distance, and his father knows there is a lot of unfinished business to take care of before Marcus ties up his skates for a NHL team.

“Before there is any dream of moving to an NHL team, he has to focus on his team in Sudbury,” said Mike Foligno. “The end of this season will help determine where he will fit in, but he has improved and we are pretty optimistic when we look towards his future.

“My wife (Janis) and I are very proud of him and all our kids for their accomplishments. If this is the road Marcus decides to take, we want him to be a true professional in every which way. That means being mentally prepared, physically prepared and working as hard as you can every opportunity you get.”