LUCAN, Ont. — Guy Boucher was impressed with Alex Formenton's speed at this time last year.
The Ottawa Senators head coach went a couple giants steps further in assessing what he's seen so far from the rookie winger at his second NHL training camp.
"It's clear, he's the (Connor) McDavid-type of speed in terms of what he looks like and how light he looks on his feet," Boucher said Tuesday in reference to the superstar captain of the Edmonton Oilers. "His glide is unbelievable."
The comment raised more than a few eyebrows — comparing anyone, let alone a player with three professional games under his belt, to the fastest skater and arguably top talent on the planet isn't necessarily advisable — but Boucher added that Formenton's exceptional wheels also overshadow some of the other things he does well.
"What people might bypass is that he's an extremely hard-working kid," the coach said. "He's got all the mental tools to be in the NHL. That's what impressed me last year. He goes to the net, he pays the price, he's first on pucks, taking checks to make plays."
Formenton's speed is perhaps even more impressive because his height drastically shot up six inches after his Ontario Hockey League draft year.
"I've always been a good skater since I was young," said Formenton, who now stands six foot three and only turned 19 last week. "Hit a little growth spurt there, worked with a couple skating coaches and kept the stride."
The 47th pick in the 2017 NHL draft made the Senators out of camp last September, suiting up for one game before being returned to junior with the London Knights, where he collected 29 goals and 19 assists in 48 games to go along with seven points (five goals, two assists) in four playoff outings.
Formenton also had two goals and two assists to help Canada win gold at the world junior hockey championship and suited up for the Ottawa's AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators, on two occasions.
"Last year I was a little bit nervous coming into that first (NHL) pre-season," he said. "This year I'm feeling a little bit more confident. I'm just trying to use as many tools as I can and play as best as I can."
Formenton had two shots in Ottawa's 4-1 pre-season loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night to open both clubs' exhibition schedules, including one chance from the slot with his team down a goal in the third period.
The rebuilding Senators, who traded captain and star defenceman Erik Karlsson for four players and two draft picks last week to the San Jose Sharks, have plenty of holes in the lineup that need to be filled — something that isn't lost on Formenton.
"There's an opportunity," he said. "My goal is to work towards that. I just try to put that in the back of my head and work as hard as I can."
"Everybody knows that we're wide open right now," Boucher added. "This is a perfect year for young guys."
The 177-pound Formenton led Senators rookies with two goals and two assists in a pair of games at a rookie tournament before main camp.
If he sticks with Ottawa this time around, the native of Barrie, Ont., will be another former member of the Knights moulded by London head coach Dale Hunter to make the NHL — part of a long list that includes John Tavares, Patrick Kane, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, Bo Horvat, Matthew Tkachuk and Max Domi.
"London is like a mini NHL team," Formenton said. "They prepare you well.
"Just the little parts of the organization that help you round yourself as a player."
And that preparation, not to mention Formenton's speed and smarts, has the Senators gushing.
"It's always, 'Yes sir, what do you want me to do?'" Boucher said. "There's never any, 'I should be this and I'm good at that.' It's just, 'Whatever you need coach.' That's always a coach's dream.
"When you see that type of work ethic with that type of speed, it's usually a great combination."
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press