It was a disappointing season in Ottawa, but for Nick Foligno, it was a productive first full season in what promises to be a long and successful career. The son of former NHL mainstay Mike Foligno, the 21-year-old left wing potted 17 goals for the Senators, including seven on the power play, while skating in all but one game. A 31-goal-scorer for his hometown Sudbury Wolves in 2006-2007, Foligno was the 28th-overall pick in the 2006 draft before going on to make his NHL debut in October of the following season. Foligno sat down with Puck Prospectus prior to a late-season game in Boston.
David Laurila: How would you describe Nick Foligno?
Nick Foligno: Iím a pretty laid-back guy, although if you asked my teammates theyíd probably say that I talk a lot. But I really enjoy the game and, obviously, having a father who played gives me a different appreciation for the game and what itĎs meant to my family. I guess Iím just a laid-back guy off the ice who really enjoys coming to the rink every day and having fun.
DL: How about on the ice?
NF: I think Iím more of a grinding-type player. I like toÖIím more of a power forward; I like to play in traffic. I consider myself a pretty good scorer and thatís what I want to continue to do at this level. I feel like Iím a hard worker. Thatís my biggest pride and joy when it comes to my game. I feel like I work hard every shift and I think that if you ask any of my teammates, theyíd say the same thing.
DL: What could your father do on the ice that you canít, or that you wish you could do better?
NF: You know what, heís probably a little tougher than I am. NoÖbut itís a different game. He scored a lot of goals, and hopefully I can get to that one day. So he might be a little better goal scorer than I am, but weíll see. Hopefully I have a long career ahead of me and maybe I can make good on it.
DL: When was the first time, in the NHL, that you were challenged to prove your toughness?
NF: Every game is a battle to prove your toughness, but I actually got in my first fight last week, against Nathan Oystrick, from Atlanta, and it was pretty fun. Itís something that, as a young guy youíre not too confident if you can do it, and finally it happens and you feel good afterwards. I didnít get too many bruises on my face, so it worked out well. So it was fun and itís something where, when you get a little further into your career ,you start to get more confident in your abilities.
DL: Do you feel that youíve established yourself as an NHL player?
NF: Yeah, for sure. I think so. Iím starting to do the things that are going to warrant me as an NHL player and keep me in this league. I just have to make sure that I continue to do those things and work hard. Thatís all they ask for, so as long as I keep producing, thatís going to help me kind of staple myself into this league.
DL: In an interview a few years ago, you said, ďYou can never be fast enough.Ē Can you elaborate on that a little?
NF: For sure. This game is all about speed now. If you watch the games, the best players are usually the fastest guys on the ice. Thatís the biggest thing. You can never be fast enough in the sense that you can always get better, and you can always put just that much more on the table. Every guy in here would be lying if they said they couldnít do a little bit better. Thatís where that came from. Speed kills. Itís something you need to attain over your career.
DL: Is it possible to play too fast, to out-skate your own ability?
NF: For sure. There are some guys, if you look around the league, who are so fast that I donít think that their body can keep up, or their hands can keep up, and thatĎs a part of having the whole package and trying to complete yourself wholly. Thatís why you try to be a well-rounded hockey player.
DL: You were on a line with Jason Spezza earlier this year. Did that have any impact on your game?
NF: It did. Heís a great player so itís obviously fun playing with him. Maybe itís a little different in that youíre trying to get into open areas more because he has the puck on his stick more on that line, so you have to play a little bit differently depending on the players youíre playing with. Heís definitely someone thatís fun to play with.
DL: Do you look at having to change up your game from time to time as being a good thing or a bad thing?
NF: It keeps you honest, so I think itís a good thing. You have to learn certain areas that youíre good at, and what youíre weak at, and you can work on those areas. When youíre playing a checking role, youíre hitting a little more and maybe thatís your focus for the night. If youíre trying to be a goal scorer you have to make sure that youíre shooting pucks and making plays. It helps to have that well-roundedness to your game.
DL: How would you describe Jarkko Ruutu?
NF: Awesome. Awesome. Heís an instigator in every sense of the word, and I think heís good at it. He dances that line, and itís what makes him a great player. But he also has some very good talent that he brings to the game, and heís a hard-working guy. Heís a pretty dedicated defensive-zone guy. Heís also a lot of fun to be around. Heís big time different off the ice. On the ice heís yelling and screaming, and off the ice heís laid back and doesnít say too much. Heís great at what he does and thatís what has made him so good in this league.
DL: Are a lot of guys different off the ice than they are on the ice?
NF: I think you kind of have to be. This is a game where you have to get emotional about it and not everyone is going to be like that off the ice. If you donít have any emotion playing this game, youíre not going to do too well. You always have to step it up a gear and be tenacious and edgy, and a lot of guys can do that. Then, off the ice, a lot of players are family guys with kids. They have their own lives away from the game.
DL: Jarkko is obviously one of your teammates. Who are some of the edgiest, and nastiest, guys that you play against?
NF: There are so many guysÖthere are a lot of players on each team. [Sean] Avery is obviously one. [Maxim] Lapierre, on Montreal, is another. Theyíre all tough to play against and you just try to work through it. Theyíre going to do it to you and youíre going to do it against them.
DL: How would you describe Sudbury, Ontario?
NF: I love it; I love it there. Itís home. Both of my parents were born and raised there and weíve always gone back every summer, so itís become home for me. We live on the lake so itís kind of nice to be up there in the summer. Itís a great summer place, for sure.
DL: Are you familiar with the Stompiní Tom Connors song, Sudbury Saturday Night?
NF: Sure. Itís a classic. Like everyone in Sudbury, Iím pretty proud that song came out of there. Itís definitely a classic.
DL: Your father played in Detroit, Buffalo and Toronto. Which of those experiences stand out the most for him when he looks back at his career?
NF: Buffalo is where he spent the majority of time, I think he had the most success in Toronto, and he got his start in Detroit, so I think heís equally happy about all of those places. But if you asked him, I think heíd say he had his most fun in Toronto the year they almost went to the Cup. Any time you have success, over the years thatís what youíre going to remember the most. But Iím pretty sure he enjoyed each year and every team. Like I said, Buffalo is a place he called home for awhile and Detroit is where he kind of made his impact in the league; itís where he started out in his rookie season.
DL: Any final thoughts?
NF: No, thatĎs pretty much it. Everyone makes their own breaks and you have to work hard to get there. Iíve done that, now I have to keep it going.