NHL Training Camp always seems to come with a few surprises. Whether it’s a strong performance from a veteran guy previously thought to be destined for the minor leagues or a rookie that comes out of nowhere to push for a spot on the NHL roster, the preseason is always packed with unlikely storylines.
That’s exactly what Alex Formenton was for the Ottawa Senators in September of last year.
While the organization was obviously high on Formenton, they used a 2nd round pick to take him at 47th overall, fans really didn’t know much about him. His speed was obviously his best attribute but his numbers from year one in the Ontario Hockey League didn’t exactly jump off the page. 16 goals in 65 games in primarily a bottom six role.
And that’s exactly why his performance in last year’s training camp and preseason was so remarkable. As an 18 year old, Formenton picked up 3 points in 5 preseason games and immediately made his presence felt at the NHL level. Coaches in Ottawa were impressed by both his skating ability and his willingness to engage on the forecheck. So much so that when the final roster was announced in October, Alex Formenton’s name was included. In an instant, Formenton had gone from relatively unknown 2nd round pick to legitimate NHL prospect.
While Formenton’s NHL audition lasted just one game, the experience gained last fall was a huge boost heading into his second season with the Knights. Formenton racked up 29 goals in 48 games with London adding another four goals in the post-season. He was also a part of Canada’s Gold Medal winning team at the World Junior tournament in Buffalo, New York.
Not a bad year for the 18 year old. Formenton is expected to push for a spot again when training camp opens in September. Belleville and a return to London are both options for the speedy forward, but after last year’s performance, don’t be surprised if he is in the mix for an NHL roster spot again this fall. And if he isn’t a regular with the Senators this year, he is considered a lock for Team Canada’s roster at the World Juniors. Likely on the top line too.
Tell us about your childhood growing up in Barrie? How did hockey come into your life?
My older brother inspired me to get involved with hockey. He played when he was younger then ended up playing for Schomberg Cougars Junior C, after that he went to Guelph University to become a vet. He was a big reason that I got into hockey because even at the age of 3, I was always tagging along with him to go skating on the recreation rinks here in Barrie. I was then put into hockey around the age of 5, I played minor hockey in Barrie until minor Bantam which was when I went down to the GTHL, so Toronto nationals, and then played there for 3 years. Wendel Clark was my coach and I am still good friends with his son. In my draft year, I went to the Mississauga Rebels and was then drafted to London. After being drafted, I tried out for the team and did not make the cut my first year. I then went back and played Junior A in Aurora for the Aurora tigers. I debated going NCAA or OHL, but decided that London felt more at home so I played there the next year.
What’s your favourite memory from your time spend playing with the Toronto Young Nationals MHA?
Winning the GTHL was pretty big for minor hockey. We won that two or three times, but winning the OHL was probably my biggest memory.
What was your experience like representing Canada at the World Juniors this year? What was it like stepping onto the ice for the first game?
It was pretty crazy. That was my first Canadian hockey event so just putting on the jersey and being able to represent this country was something special. We had a good fan base and the gold medal game was incredible, the whole crowd was filled with red and white which was pretty cool to skate out to. We had a close group of guys and everyone got along really well, which I think was where our main success came from. Overall, it was just an incredible experience.
What was your time like when you came to Ottawa? What do you think needs to change for the upcoming season?
I think that just from my experience being up there, they had a good group of people and they accepted me. Being the new guy, I was a little bit lost trying to learn the lifestyle of the NHL. They have a lot of leaders on the team that stepped up and showed me around, I think that was their main advantage.
For this season, I would just say rebuilding and bringing some new faces into the organization to have a fresh start.
From your own perspective, what are some of your biggest assets and how do you feel that you’re a good fit for the Ottawa Senators roster?
I’d like to see myself as a leader, like a lot of guys that are on the team. I work very hard and if I have the chance to play on the team longer than just this season, I want to work my hardest to bring my speed to the team and help out offensively but also defensively.
During the time you’ve spent here in Ottawa, what have been some of your favourite things to do in the City? Do you have any favourite restaurants?
I love it there. There was a great Italian restaurant that I went to downtown in the Byward Market. I also went to the mall with my buddy who plays for the Ottawa 67’s, he was showing me around and showing me what was good in Ottawa, which was a lot of fun. Just downtown in general is amazing
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned throughout your hockey career thus far?
Never give up. There are going to be a lot of setbacks during your career, a big one for me was when I didn’t make the London Knights my first year and being drafted late to the OHL. So, even though there will be a lot of setbacks, you need to remember not to give up and that if you put your mind to it you can get it done.