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Alex Formenton Has Arrived

The 22-year-old is showing that he’s not only an NHLer: he’s an impact one

Ottawa Senators v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

On December 1st, 2021, the Ottawa Senators were a paltry 4-15-1. They had lost to the Vancouver Canucks 6-2 and it was seen as the newest low of the season. The following night, the Senators eked out a 3-2 win in Carolina, and they have gone 9-5-2 ever since that date, trying to reverse their fortunes.

One big reason for that 3-2 win? Alex Formenton, who scored the first two goals. Coming into that game, he had just two goals and one assist in 17 games—a disappointing stat line for a player who was always exciting to watch. And just like the Senators, Formenton appears to be completely different since that game. His evolution into a legitimate option in the top-6 has driven Ottawa’s latest success, which is an enormous saving grace. Formenton is here to stay and he’s showing that he isn’t going to just be a passenger.

The Senators have played 16 games during this stretch of much better hockey, and Formenton has amassed six goals and nine assists (15 points), which is a 77-point pace. And it looks even better if we only look at the last 13, as he has 13 points during that stretch. Since December 7th, he ranks tied for 46th amongst NHL forwards (with at least 10 GP) in points per game, a good indication that he is producing like a top-six forward.

Those point totals are incredibly impressive, but fans want to know: is this sustainable and what can we expect from him moving forward?

Most importantly, I obviously wouldn’t expect him to continue to be a point-per-game player. It’s usually not best to project what a player will be while he’s still in the midst of a hot streak, so we’ll have to see how he plays when he regresses and how quickly he can get back to his productive ways afterwards. However, there are many encouraging signs from him that give him a very high floor where he’s a very useful middle-six forward at worst.

Many different statistical models like Formenton a lot, which is good that there is some consensus. At Evolving Wild, he ranks 4th on the Senators in Goals Above Replacement, behind only Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, and Thomas Chabot:

Evolving Wild

If you’re not familiar with Evolving Wild and its stats, that’s okay. The gist of that table is showing that Formenton is essentially valuable in a plethora of categories. He’s fifth on the team in offensive and defensive value, plus he’s second in short-handed value. His powerplay production isn’t there due to ice time, but he’s been a good player to have in so many different situations.

In addition, @JFresh pegs him as a 74th percentile player based on many different high-ranking factors such as his point rates, his offensive creation, defensive suppression, and penalty differential. A player in the 74th percentile isn’t necessarily a star, but that is definitely someone you can comfortably play in the top-6:

@JFresh on Twitter

It’s clear that his underlying metrics back him up as a legitimately very good player, and that is a massive victory for the Senators.

In terms of his overall point production this season, he has 18 points in 33 games, which puts him on pace for 45 in a full season. That’s a tad short of what you’d like from a top-6 winger, but moving forward I’m confident that he can easily surpass that mark. Maybe not this season if he regresses a bit, but I think he can easily be a 50-60 point player based on his newfound creativity. That creativity wasn’t always seen in the past (at least in the NHL), but now we get amazing plays and efforts like this from him:

He’s no longer just an extremely fast skater—he’s been able to use that speed to his advantage by making crisp passes or getting his own chances. There are at least a few moments every game where he makes me audibly go “wow...” because it is so fun to watch.

Another interesting aspect with Formenton is that he has consistently been a late bloomer at each level. He only had 34 points in 65 OHL games in his draft year, and then he put up over a point per game in the following two seasons. The AHL example here isn’t nearly as drastic, but he started off his Belleville career with two points in seven games, then had 51 points in the following 54 games to finish the season. And in Ottawa, he only had 10 points through 47 games but now has 15 in his last 16. So perhaps he’s finally comfortable and ready to dominate.

On the season, Formenton has a shooting percentage of 12.5%, which is high but not absurd. For reference, the NHL average this season is 9.1%, while the Senators are shooting 9.5% as a team. That 12.5% mark will probably come down a bit, but maybe just a few percentage points. After all, if you asked the average fan, they’d probably say Formenton should have more goals based on the number of breakaways he gets. So his high-danger chances will always be there.

I don’t really know what Formenton will look like during his prime, but I’m much more confident about his future than I was a few months ago. He’s gone from a 4th liner who can’t score to a legitimate top-6 option who could be the perfect kind of playoff winger who can score, kill penalties, and be a bit of a pest. Let’s bask in this hot streak from Formenton because it really is a thing of beauty.