Why speed demon Fortin believes he can crack Blackhawks lineup
Quebec native finally 100 percent healthy after rough season in Rockford
Two years ago, Alexandre Fortin showed up at Blackhawks development camp and put on an offensive display that had fans, media -- and probably some coaches -- asking, "Who is THAT kid?"
The speed. The vision. The speed. Impressive passing skills and a sensational finishing touch.
And, wow, that SPEED.
Almost every time Fortin had the puck, a high-danger scoring chance seemed to develop.
The wizardry didn't stop that September either, and coach Joel Quenneville eventually gave the fresh-faced 19-year-old a chance to skate with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov in a preseason game against Detroit at the United Center.
Fortin took full advantage, scoring a goal, notching an impressive assist and being named the game's No. 1 star.
Despite all of this, Fortin -- who spent the previous two seasons in the Quebec Junior League -- wasn't ready for the big time, so the Hawks sent him back to the QMJHL for more seasoning.
Last year, Fortin got his first taste of pro hockey with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs and scored just 4 goals in 53 games.
In many ways it was a disappointing, injury-filled campaign.
But in others it was one in which Fortin matured and learned how important it is to pay attention to the details of the game.
"Certainly with the training camp he had two years ago and the media narrative, it wasn't what he expected," Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But that doesn't mean it wasn't a very successful year for him as far as learning … what it takes to be a pro. And I'm excited to see how he reacts this year."
Said Fortin on Friday after the Hawks wrapped up this year's development camp at MB Ice Arena: "If I look behind I can say it wasn't the best year of my career, but at the same time I never learned as much in one year. It will be good for my future."
When camp opens in September, Fortin will be fighting for a roster spot with players like Matthew Highmore, Victor Ejdsell, Jordan Schroeder and Dominik Kahun. While speed is Fortin's biggest strength, he also found out that when you play out of control it can lead to turnovers and game-changing momentum for the other team.
"You can't cheat," said Fortin, who is signed through the 2019-20 season. "If you cheat a little bit, you can get caught very easily because you're not the only one fast here. It's part of all the small details I have to work on."
Colliton, who dressed Fortin just once in the Calder Cup playoffs because the forward was dealing with a groin injury, was adamant that opponents had a difficult time dealing with Fortin's explosiveness.
"It's a big weapon to have," Colliton said. "I just think you have to realize … he's a kid. It's going to come, I believe."
As does Fortin, who said he's finally 100 percent.
There's no doubt he stood out once again this week at development camp. The question is, can he do the same with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz and the rest of the Blackhawks in two months?
Fortin says absolutely and that his goal is to be on the opening-night roster.
"I feel good, feel healthy. I'm excited for the future," he said. "I know I'm young and I have a lot to learn.
"But I'm here to prove that I can play here. I'll do what I have to do."