Ottawa Senators Jerseys China

BELLEVILLE — Alex Formenton’s biggest asset is his speed.

And when the final cuts were made at the Ottawa Senators’ training camp the past two years, the teenage winger, a second-round pick in 2017, looked like he was on the fast-track to an NHL career when he made the club’s roster.

In both cases, he was soon sent back to the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, but now the 19-year-old Formenton — he turns 20 on Sept. 13 — is hopeful he can make the next step permanently.

After wrapping up his junior career with the Knights last spring and then suiting up for a couple of games with Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville to end the year, the 6-2 Formenton worked hard this summer to get ready to make the jump, and with the Senators in a youth movement he knows this is a land of opportunity.

“I just want to show that I’m ready to make that next jump,” Formenton said before facing the Winnipeg Jets’ rookies Friday night at CAA Arena to open the three-team rookie tourney. “I want to spend my whole year in Ottawa. That’s my main goal, and I’ve got to use my tools and be the hardest-working player on the ice.”

The previous two years, he returned to junior with the right attitude.

“When I got sent back, it’s basically a fresh start,” said Formenton. “You’ve got to work hard and gain the spot next year. Last year, I gained that spot and didn’t end up playing the whole year, but I was disappointed with that.

“It gave me motivation to come in this year and make sure that I stay.”

There is a need for speed to succeed in the NHL, and that was a big reason why Formenton was able to stick with the Senators to start the last couple of years. The first time he made it, he only suited up for one game before being sent back to London, but there had to be a reward for the excellent camp that he had as a newcomer in 2017.

Last year, Formenton had one goal in nine games before he was sent back to junior. The plan was for him to get the experience of playing at the world junior championships for a second straight year, but it didn’t work out the way the club wanted when he suffered a knee injury during one of Team Canada’s pre-tournament games.

He did his rehab in Ottawa and had a strong finish with 13 goals and 34 points in 31 games with the Knights.

“It was tough to sit back and watch that Team Canada tournament, and not being able to play in the world juniors took a bit of a toll on me,” Formenton said. “But there’s always going to be adversity and you just have to get over that.

“We had a good second half of the year. Having that injury this early in my career is going to help me later in my career to battle injuries.”

The Senators talked a lot to Formenton about the fact that he had to get stronger to stay in the NHL. He skated at his home near Barrie and added six pounds of muscle. The tourney is a good chance for him to get into some game action before the main camp opens Thursday with medicals in Ottawa.

Belleville coach Troy Mann has already talked to Formenton, explaining that if he’s indeed going to make the next step, he can’t just get by on his speed.

“He has to play to his strengths but he also has to remember (coach) D.J. (Smith) is going to want his guys to play a certain way,” Mann said. “I’ll use (Thursday’s) practice as an example: His line was in on a forecheck and he had an opportunity to bump a guy and use some stick on puck, and he didn’t.

“At the end of his rotation, I made that point to him (by saying), ‘You’re going to have to finish there and you’re going to have to use some stick detail there because, starting next week, you’re going to hear about it.’ He’d hear about it here as well, but next week he’s trying to impress D.J. and his staff so those are the kinds of things he’s going to have to do.”

Mann said the details make a big difference at the NHL level.

“It’s not easy for players to play with the details in the game, especially when they come from NCAA and major-junior programs where they’re the elite player and the star,” Mann said. “They can get away with a tremendous amount of bad habits and be very successful.

“Then you play at the pro level where guys are bigger, stronger, faster and sometimes better than you. That means you need details in your game to be successful.”

The Ottawa Senators have signed center Colin White to a six-year, $28.5 million contract, the team announced.

On the rebuilding Senators, the 22-year-old White stepped into the top center position and had a solid season with 14 goals and 27 assists. He also quarterbacked the team’s second power-play unit.

White will be counted on to play a significant role next season as the team continues its rebuild.

“We’ve identified Colin as one of our core young players who will help drive our team’s success in both the short and long term,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a statement. “Colin plays the 200-foot game that is so coveted in today’s NHL. He can skate, play on both special teams, and is a character player and leader who loves hockey and this city. While he is coming off a season where he finished among rookie leaders in many categories, we also know he is just scratching the surface of his potential in this league. We’re very happy that Colin will be a Senator for the next six years.”

White signed a three-year, entry-level contract in April 2017 with a cap hit of $925,000 to forgo his final two years at Boston College. He was a restricted free agent this offseason.

He was one of seven Senators players to issue an apology in November after they were recorded criticizing the team’s poor play and an assistant coach while riding in an Uber. The conversation was then published online.

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