Blackhawks notebook: Rookie Alexandre Fortin’s NHL debut ’a dream come true’
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alexandre Fortin is here because of an injury to Andreas Martinsen, but the Blackhawks are intrigued enough by the 21-year-old Fortin’s speed to put him right to work and see what they’ve got.
Fortin, who parlayed a prospects camp invitation and solid training camp into a three-year entry-level contract in 2016, skated on the third line with veterans Artem Anisimov and Chris Kunitz against the Wild on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
“That line has a little bit of everything,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He can add that quickness — off the rush, off the forecheck. But he is a dangerous guy with that quickness.”
It obviously was a big moment for the 6-0, 175-pound Fortin, a Quebec native who twice was overlooked in the draft.
“You work your whole career to be in this moment,” Fortin said, “and now I’m just happy to go all-in and enjoy the moment and prove what I can do.”
Quenneville’s advice to Fortin was simple. “Relax and play your game. Do what you do best,” Quenneville said.
Of course, as so many players know, that’s easier said than done when you’re playing in your first NHL game at age 21.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Fortin, who had four goals and 21 points in 53 games for Rockford last season. “It’s kind of [stressful], but it’s another hockey game and you just have to look at it that way, and [I’m] just going to live my dream tonight. I have to enjoy it and play my game, keep it simple and use my speed.
That’s what they want me to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Fortin is the fourth Hawks player to make his NHL debut this season. Defenseman Henri Jokiharju and forwards Luke Johnson and Dominik Kahun are the -others.
Last season, 10 Hawks made their NHL debut — 11 if you include emergency goaltender Scott Foster. Of those 10, only forward Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Jan Rutta are on the -current roster.
Luke Johnson out
With Fortin in the lineup, Johnson was scratched. Defenseman Brandon Davidson and Martinsen also were scratched.
No. 999 for Keith
Defenseman Duncan Keith played in his 999th career NHL game — all with the Hawks. He’ll play in the milestone 1,000th game Saturday against the Blues at the United Center.
Keith is expected to get a video tribute similar to the one for Brent Seabrook in his 1,000th game March 29 against the Jets — an honor that was overshadowed by Foster’s relief performance in a 6-2 victory.
“That was a pretty crazy night, with [Dylan] Sikura getting his first points and obviously Scott Foster coming in and playing goal,” forward Patrick Kane said. “No one really remembers that thousandth game for Seabs.
“Hopefully. it’ll be a little bit more memorable for Duncs — but great careers by both those guys. It’ll be fun to celebrate it at home.”