Can prospect Alexandre Fortin force his way onto Blackhawks roster this fall?

Can prospect Alexandre Fortin force his way onto Blackhawks roster this fall?

When Alexandre Fortin went to Blackhawks training camp last season he picked up where he left off in development camp, impressing brass and earning a three-year, entry-level contract. He was still only 19, though, so despite an outstanding camp he went back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He hopes to have the same performance this fall and see where it takes him. As the Blackhawks roster stands right now, however, there may not be any room for him on the big club.

Fortin had sports hernia surgery three weeks ago, so he’s only participating in off-ice workouts at this week’s development camp. But he said he’ll be ready for training camp in September, and he hopes some added weight and strength help him be as good, or better than he was last September.

“I worked a lot this year to improve what I had to improve,” said Fortin, who believes he is NHL ready. “I think we had some problems during the season and I got injured. But I just have to stay focused and know I have to work hard. I’m excited for September.”

Last year Fortin didn’t return to his junior team until October. Part of that was a statement on how well Fortin played. The Blackhawks were also trying to figure out their lineup and there was a real chance of him staying – even if it was for a nine-game look so as not to burn the first year of his entry-level deal. With the Blackhawks signing several forwards on July 1, that opening may not be there this season, at least at the start.

Still, be it with the Blackhawks or the Rockford IceHogs, Fortin is ready to take the next step. He’s gained 20 pounds – “my mom said it’s natural, but I did it,” he said. Adding size is good but Fortin doesn’t want to lose the speed that was so evident last fall. Fortin said it hasn’t hampered his speed thus far.

“A little bit faster, a little bit faster,” he said. “With my surgery, I’ll be ready and I’ll be like, if I can say 100 percent. You know it’s when you play with injuries it’s always a bit harder and more pressure on yourself. But I’m pretty happy that it will now be good and I will be 100 percent on my hockey.”

Fortin made a great first impression on the Blackhawks last season. Whether there’s a chance for him to make the roster in October or later down the line, he’d like to make the same impression this fall.

“[Expectations are the] same as last year,” he said. “I’ll just try to do my best and be ready to play as well as I can to hopefully help the team, and we’ll see after.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?


Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'


Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”