Alex Formenton was drafted by the Ottawa Senators, 47th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. It was in the 2017-18 season where he would make his NHL debut, playing in only one game. He returned to the Senators’ lineup in the 2018-19 season, where he played in nine games. Also, during this season, he earned his first NHL goal against the Arizona Cayotes.
In 2018, Formenton joined Team Canada at the World Junior U-20 Championships, playing seven games, earning two goals and two assists.
This season, Formenton’s presence on the Senators has been defined by stints playing for Belleville and moved to the taxi squad and the active roster. It seems however that he’s finally getting his chance, and he’s making the most of it. He’s using his speed, and ability to create pressure in the penalty kill to show that he’s ready to become a core part of the Senators’ lineup.
Getting his Opportunity
On March 24, Senators head coach DJ Smith announced that left-winger Austin Watson will be out four to six weeks after sustaining an injury against Calgary on March 22.
Watson’s injury is a huge loss to the veteran presence and experience he brough into the Senators lineup. If there is anything positive to come out his injury however, it’s giving Formenton enough time to show his worth.
That very day Watson’s injury was announced, Formenton made his season debut against the Calgary Flames. A chance to finally playing after being shifted to the taxi squad three times in the last eight days. Since then, Formenton has racked up three goals in nine games played this season.
Optimizing Speed for Breakaway Opportunities
Last Saturday in the Senators’ game against Toronto, Formenton scored a short-handed goal after a face-off in his defensive zone. The Leafs got possession of the puck and got it to defensemen, Morgan Rielly. Formenton stole from Rielly, which then led to him to be chased by both Rielly, and Mitch Marner. With his speed, however, it wouldn’t be enough to stop him, and he ended up scoring a shorthanded, game-tying goal.
He almost had another breakaway goal in Monday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. While some were calling for a penalty shot, Formenton instead drew a hooking penalty on a breakaway shot opportunity.
It’s his speed that makes Formenton stand apart in the Senators’ lineup. In January 2020, while with Belleville, he took part in the AHL’s fastest skater competition at the All-Star Classic. Not only was he the youngest player in the competition, but he was the fastest. He won with a time of 13.356 seconds. It was not only good enough to win the competition, but it was good enough to sit for 3rd best all-time in AHL history. To further put that in perspective, Formenton’s skating time beat Connor McDavid’s in both 2018 and 2019.
His speed also creates the ability for him to play defensively. This makes Formenton a well-rounded player that is able to work in the offense and defensive zones.
Dominating the Penalty Kill
His goal against the Leafs is perfect example of how Formenton is able to create pressure on the penalty kill.
With speed comes the ability to kill penalties. Even when they are shorthanded, Formenton puts pressure on the other team. One slip of the puck could result in a short-handed opportunity.
When DJ Smith was asked about what Formenton brings to the penalty kill, he said that given Formenton is a talented player who Smith doesn’t hesitate to put in both offensive and defensive situations.
“Speed kills in this league and he can fly. As his detail gets better, he’s going to be a really good NHL player. I wasn’t afraid to put him in defensive situations last night. I think his speed will be able to create some offense — not only now but for years to come.”– DJ Smith, Ottawa Senators, D.J. Smith pre-game availability — March 25, 2021
It’s likely that with his ability to shake of plays defensively and create pressure offensively due to his speed, he is likely to be a fixture on the Senators’ penalty kill in the long run.
What’s Next for Formenton?
Formenton may have gotten his opportunity early after Watson’s injury, he actually might be here to stay long term. The Senators have invested a lot in their young talent and taking a chance on Formenton is just what the Senators are trying to do to prepare for next season.
The way he’s played in his early opportunities on the Senators, Formenton should see plenty of opportunities to play down the stretch. While his role might be unclear for next season as of now, Smith did confirm that he will be with the Senators for the rest of the season
Covering the Ottawa Senators here at The Hockey Writers. I am a journalism graduate student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. I previously covered University of Toronto Varsity Blues hockey.