Alexandre Fortin is the latest example of what’s becoming known as the Blackhawk Way.
The speedy 19-year-old forward from Laval, Quebec, came into training camp looking to prove himself. Unlike his peers, Fortin wasn’t officially part of the organization until Sunday, when he signed a three-year entry-level contract.
“[I’ve been] working on that since I’m young, so now it’s just step one and very exciting for the future, but it’s amazing,” said Fortin, who was eligible to sign only because he wasn’t selected in the last two NHL drafts. “I have to thank the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s the first team that really believed in me, so it’s awesome.”
If he turns out to be a viable forward, whose contract will have an affordable salary-cap hit, it will be another great find for the Hawks. Last season, Artemi Panarin won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie after signing an entry-level contract out of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Fortin is not Panarin, but he has shown a lot of skill and has speed, an asset the Hawks are always looking to add.
“It’s a little bit of the Blackhawk Way,” assistant coach Kevin Dineen said Saturday after watching Fortin assist on a goal in the Training Camp Festival scrimmage at the United Center. “Sometimes it takes a player a little longer to develop. [Fortin’s] certainly had a good showing here, and I would expect with his character that he would continue to do that.”
It has been an interesting journey for Fortin, who played the last two seasons with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, totaling 30 goals and 83 points in 127 games. After helping the team win the QMJHL’s President Cup championship last season, he caught the Blackhawks’ attention during the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup tournament, finishing with three assists in five games.
Fortin was invited to the Blackhawks’ prospect camp in July and stood out by scoring five goals in three scrimmages. He was then invited to play with the Hawks’ rookie team at a tournament earlier this month in Traverse City, and he scored two more goals in the first scrimmage of training camp Friday.
“I liked the way I played,” Fortin said. “I worked a lot in the summer to come here stronger than I was at prospect camp, so I’m really happy [with] what I did out there. Everybody here wants to play pro, so I came here with the mentality of signing a contract and staying [a long] time.”
After being bypassed in 14 rounds of the NHL draft the last two years, Fortin arrived at camp with a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s my goal to prove they [made] a mistake that they didn’t draft me,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t really care right now. I know what I am capable of, so I just want to play hockey and prove who I am on the ice.”
The next step is earning a spot in the Hawks’ lineup for a preseason game, which could happen soon. Fortin likely will play another year of junior hockey with Rouyn-Noranda, but he isn’t ready to concede that just yet.
“I mean, you are not here to say, ‘Oh, I just want to come back later, next year,’ he said. “No, it’s ‘I’m here, and I want to stay here as long as I can, for sure.’ ”
NOTE: Duncan Keith got back on the ice for another practice Sunday. “Today was a little tougher day for defensemen, so we were asking a lot of them,” assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “But he responded well afterwards. He even asked if he could come out for the [second] practice, but we said no.”
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