by Todd Anderson
Ottawa Senators prospect Nick Foligno has learned a lot since hearing his name called at last year's NHL entry draft in Vancouver. Now the Sens' 28th overall pick in 2006 is working hard to make the jump to the NHL next season.
"I really want to make a push and hopefully make the club," Foligno said during a phone interview from his Sudbury home on Thursday morning. "The (2006 Senators) development camp showed me how things work. When I got into training camp, though, I was still in awe. I was lining up with Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, world-class players like that. Last year I was more focused on learning, this year I want to make the team."
Before leaving Ottawa after training camp last season, Foligno, an alternate captain with the Ontario Hockey League championship finalist Sudbury Wolves this season, was told by Sens officials to work on his speed and strength, typical focuses for any young prospect. The 19-year-old says he's done well to improve in both areas.
"I was able to pull away from guys and at the same time hold off guys, too," Foligno says of his season that included 31 goals and 88 points in 66 regular-season games, and 12 goals and 29 points in 21 playoff games. " I know there's still room for improvement, but I feel I've advanced in both areas.
"I've been training for the past month. You never take too much time off. I want to make a big push to be an NHL player. I have a personal trainer, and we work for two hours a day."
Not only did Foligno have the chance to play in the OHL championship this season, but he also watched every Senators playoff game as they reached the Stanley Cup final for the first time. Foligno says he enjoyed watching the Sens play with a strong focus on teamwork.
"To be a leader on a team you have to help guys in order for you to pull through. I played with a lot of great players this season. Being a team player and someone the younger guys can look up to is what gives you status. It's what I pride myself on. For me, it's about sharing what I have learned along the way.
"I watched every single Sens game in the playoffs, and it was exciting. It motivated me because I was watching the team that I am going to try and make. It makes you proud to be a part of the organization."
This weekend a new crop of young players will join the organization at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus, Ohio. Foligno says he'll never forget his draft day last year in Vancouver.
"It's really an exciting time. It's like nothing you will ever experience again. To see the setup, the people, the teams, you're just in awe. I walked into it with my mouth wide open."