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.”