Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Fortin Facing Important Season In AHL

By Colin Likas
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 04: Alexandre Fortin #82 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates to the bench after scoring a third period goal against the Detroit Red Wings during a preseason game at the United Center on October 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 6-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 04: Alexandre Fortin #82 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates to the bench after scoring a third period goal against the Detroit Red Wings during a preseason game at the United Center on October 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 6-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Some fans have been interested in seeing what Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alexandre Fortin can do at the NHL level, and this upcoming hockey season may be a make-or-break one for Fortin reaching the top of the food chain

Alexandre Fortin has had an interesting path to his current spot in professional hockey. Despite going unchosen in the 2016 NHL Draft, he impressed the Chicago Blackhawks when invited to their prospect camp later that year. He eventually earned an entry-level contract for his efforts.

Fortin still has two more seasons on that deal, after completing his first run with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last year. He posted 21 points in 53 regular-season games while netting no points in just one playoff tilt.

This came after Fortin continued to surge with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He tabbed seasons of 40, 43 and 52 points between 2014 and 2017 to keep himself relevant in hockey circles, and eventually earn an AHL shot.

Could this be the year Fortin plays for the Blackhawks? He wasn’t exactly a scoring machine with the IceHogs, and the forward corps are clogged with recently signed veterans and other fringe prospects.

It’d be hard to expect Fortin to start the 2018-19 campaign with the Blackhawks, all things considered. That being said, he’s facing an important slate of action in the AHL if he hopes to ever join the NHL wearing an Indian Head.

At risk of being stuck in AHL?

Is there a point when you can say a guy has spent “too long” in the minor leagues? It’s tough to say, but I think it’s easier to find with a forward than a defenseman or goaltender.

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The latter two positions, players often take longer to develop. But at forward, the cream of the crop is expected to get to the NHL sooner rather than later.

Yes, Fortin still has two years on that aforementioned three-year deal. But considering both the hype that previously surrounded him and the fact the Blackhawks have quite a few young forwards who could snag a spot Fortin seeks, Fortin really needs to start standing out soon.

Even if he doesn’t play at the NHL level during the 2018-19 season, the Blackhawks no doubt would like to see him making strides toward being a feasible roster inclusion to being 2019-2020. He was a late camp cut in 2016, but it doesn’t seem he’s been all that close to cracking the NHL since.

Fortin is just 21, and he fits into the growing NHL mold — on the smaller side (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) and quick on his skates. He’s shown a scoring touch in the QMJHL, and to a lesser extent in the AHL. If he can find the net, and help teammates do so as well, at a better rate in 2018-19, there’s a chance Fortin can vie for NHL time in the near future.

It’s not as if it’s the end of the world if Fortin doesn’t pan out to be NHL quality. But he was a guy who dazzled before the Blackhawks were in as tough of a spot as they are now. He looked great against better camp competition. It would be a shame for him to come up short of playing in the NHL with Chicago, given some of the abilities and skills he’s displayed.

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So that’s why I believe Fortin needs to have a more successful AHL season this year than he did in his first go-round. He has dealt with injury issues in the recent past, but should he keep that behind him, knowing exactly what to expect on AHL ice should pay dividends for Fortin and the IceHogs this coming year.

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