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Alex Formenton: On the Ottawa Senators’ Must-Watch List for 2020-21

How is Senators’ prospect Alex Formenton progressing towards the NHL?

The Ottawa Senators were a rebuilding team in 2019-20, but that’s not likely to last long because the team has one of the best young prospect pools for any team in the NHL. Sadly, in a way, that’s what years or poor or mediocre play will do for you.

On Friday, May 15, Fansided’s Naftali Clinton reviewed three of the best young players in that pool. In this post, I want to build upon Clinton’s thoughts about one of those young players – Alex Formenton.

Related: TSN’s Ottawa Senators All-Time Team Throughout Its History

Formenton’s Strengths as a Player

Alex Formenton is both fast and talented. He was chosen during the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. How good was he then? He was actually strong enough to make the Senators roster during training camp for the last two seasons; however, the team’s management wisely decided that, rather than letting him toil with the big club as it struggled, they would let him hone his game with their AHL Belleville affiliate. Wise choice, because Formenton took good advantage of that choice.

It was the 20-year-old winger’s first year in pro, and he didn’t disappoint. The jury’s no longer out. Nothing that he showed fans or the organization during his time in the AHL would lead anyone to believe he’s not going to develop into a spell-binding forward whose play will lift fans out of their seats almost once a game. He can become that good.

Clinton hints that Formenton’s blinding speed will leave opponents’ defensemen simply spinning on the ice. The best praise yet?  He reminds Clinton of the speed-burner Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.

Belleville’s Coach Troy Mann’s Assessment of Formenton’s Growth

Belleville’s head coach Troy Mann said in an interview this week, “Alex certainly progressed into a pretty viable two-way player for us. We always start the season by defining roles and where we see a prospect fitting in and that’s in conjunction with the type of role we expect them to play at the NHL level.”

Mann added, “Alex came in, and the two things I think he accomplished, was that he played with purpose and was able to improve on his detail … there were certainly things he needed to work on, including his defensive awareness and his stick detail because takeaways are so important in the NHL from a tracking perspective and getting in a defensive position on the forecheck. Your stick is such an important tool now and those are the things we wanted to continue to work on.” (from “PROSPECT WATCH: Alex Formenton has made strides on the road to the NHL, Bruce Garrioch, The Ottawa Sun, 05/14/20)

Related: Why the Ottawa Senators Would Relish a June NHL Entry Draft

What’s the Skinny

In summary, the Belleville coaching staff and the Senators’ organization were both satisfied with Formenton’s first-year AHL success (27 goals and 53 points in 61 games). Formenton had two brief sets of games with the NHL Senators; but, in total, he’s only played 10 games. He didn’t play a single NHL game in 2019-20, which is likely because Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith has developed a solid plan for his development.

He fast, and he’s a scorer – finishing third on the AHL Senators in scoring. He looks as if there’s a good chance he’ll turn into a bonafide NHL player. When might Senators’ fans see Formenton again? There’s a chance 2020-21 will be the season when he becomes a regular and valuable player on the Senators roster. By then, perhaps this team will make its next step towards becoming the contenders they hope to become.

If the NHL continues its regular-season play, which I believe isn’t that realistic given the prognosis of how the coronavirus will likely act over the next few weeks, Formenton would be one of those young players the Senators would like to take a look-see at.

That said, the Senators’ brass probably already knows what they need to know, which means the young forward has nothing to prove to anyone who counts in the organization. He’ll be tough to keep off the roster for next season.

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