The jokes were immediate: the Canucks got Focht.
Regrettably, the last name of the Canucks’ fifth-round pick, Carson Focht, is apparently pronounced more like the word “folk” with a “T” on the end, which is a true shame for fans of puns and expletives.
Focht was a surprising pick for the Canucks, as he was largely unranked heading into the draft. The only major service that had him on their radar was Future Considerations, which had him ranked 284th. Considering there are only 217 total picks in the draft, that suggests even they didn’t anticipate he would get picked.
Even Focht himself was preparing for disappointment, as he had already been disappointed a year ago when he went undrafted in 2018.
"I’m trying not to go in with too high of expectations," said Focht heading into the draft. "I think I’m ready for whatever happens. I’m just going into it with an open mind. Obviously it would be an honour to be drafted. Even if I’m not, that’s okay too."
It's understandable that Focht and draft experts were skeptical he would get picked, as Focht was in his second year of draft eligibility at 19 years old and fell short of a point per game in the WHL. Still, he had 64 points in 68 games for the Calgary Hitmen, which is still a strong season, and followed it up with 5 goals and 9 points in 11 playoff games.
That was a huge step up from his first year of draft eligibility, when he had 33 points in 69 games split between the Hitmen and Tri-City Americans. Perhaps that leap forward helped convince the Canucks that Focht had the upside and the potential for growth to take a chance.
The fifth round is generally where teams start to take that kind of chance, with scouts campaigning for specific players that they believe in. For Focht, that belief was predicated on him thriving in a new situation.
“Part of our process is to continue to evaluate players year to year,” said Canucks’ director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett. “For Carson, the trade to Calgary seemed to really jumpstart his season.”
Focht did score at a slightly higher rate after the trade to the Hitmen in 2017-18, then he took another step forward last season. There’s an added bonus that Jett Woo has been traded to the Hitmen, so the two Canucks prospects will play together next season.
Both Woo and Focht have been invited to Hockey Canada’s summer development camp. Woo is a lock for Team Canada at next year’s World Juniors, but Focht is also on their radar.
“Focht plays a very skilled game in which he relies on his slick skill set...to take over games, which he did more and more during the 2018-2019 campaign,” says his prospect profile on Draft Geek. “Improving his two-way game, Focht’s urgency to make a difference on both sides of the puck made him much easier to rank, back checking with a purpose.”
"The strength of Focht’s game is his competitiveness and effort in all three zones," says Hockey Prospect's 2018 Black Book. "He is reliable in his own end, and wins puck battles despite his lack of weight. He was a strong penalty killer and wants to make a difference in all facets of the game."
Watching his highlight reel, Focht clearly has some excellent hands and finish, which makes you wonder why it took so long for the numbers to come for him.
Brackett specifically spoke to liking players with a high “motor” in this draft: players with determination, work ethic, and an aggressive style of play. That description fits Focht according to Brackett.
“Plays hard, good motor, heavy on the puck where he needs to be, and he can generate for them,” he said. “So he's going to be, I would assume, [Calgary’s] top-line guy and push them next year and it’ll be nice to have him there playing with Jett.”
If that drive keeps Focht on his upward trajectory, this could prove to be a strong pick for the Canucks, as he does show flashes of high-end skill and finish. He has quick hands around the net and can beat goaltender cleanly from distance with the zip he puts on his wrist shot.
While Focht seems like a reach based on draft rankings and scouting reports, you can still understand what the Canucks see in him that made them take a chance in the fifth round.