Projecting Alex Fortin’s Future

Hank asks…

I loved the insight you provided when I asked questions last week. I thought of one more- where does Alexander Fortin fit into the mix? How good is he, what future does he have, and when will he break into the NHL?

This is a great question as I remember hearing people talk about Fortin with high expectations for the past two summers and I have no idea where this came from.

First we have to establish where I heard people talk so highly of Alex Fortin. The locale was in my twitter mentions, where one never knows what they are going to get. Two summers ago, I had people in my mentions talk about Fortin cracking the NHL last year and a possible to probably top-6 forward by this season.

WHAT?

Now obviously projecting prospects is extremely arduous and nothing is guaranteed. When we try to establish a baseline for what to expect from a prospect, we usually look at their scoring rate. Players with high scoring outputs usually see that ability translate to the NHL.

Fortin never scored much in the QMJHL, the weakest of the Canadian Major Junior Hockey Leagues. He was his scoring by age.

  • Age 18 – 67 games, 11 goals, 29 assists, 40 points
  • Age 19 – 54 games, 19 goals, 24 assists, 43 points
  • Age 20 – 52 games, 22 goals, 30 assists, 54 points

Now lets look at how some top-6 forwards produced in their last junior season.

  • Brandon Saad – age 19, 44 games, 34 goals, 42 assists, 76 points
  • Alex DeBrincat – age 19, 63 games, 65 goals, 62 assists, 127 points
  • Middle-6 forwards Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik were point per game players in the OHL, a tougher league than the QMHJL
  • Tomas Jurco even collected 68 points in 48 games in his last season in the QMJHL

Top-6 talent usually collect ridiculous numbers in junior, and Fortin’s numbers aren’t very impressive. His point totals went up every year, but that is expected given the added year of experience gained. Junior hockey players range from age 16-21. So a 20 year old player going up against 16-21 year olds should be able to do better than his or her 19 year old self playing against 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. and 21-year-olds.

Fortin is also 20-years-old currently and will turn 21 this season. While there is still many years for progress and development, it’s probably more reasonable that he develops from an AHL level player to a bottom-6 NHL player over the next 2-4 years. Guys like Nick Schmaltz who are playing in the NHL in their age-20 season can be expected to develop into a top-6 role. A guy like Ryan Hartman didn’t crack the NHL full-time until his age-22 season. Now in his age-23 season, I imagine he’ll develop into a nice middle-6 forward.

Here is a real quick explainer on “middle-6”. Toews, Kane, and Saad are top-6 talent right now. They are first line talented forwards. Middle-6 is more the 2nd line or 3rd line forward. This would be guys like Schmaltz, Panik, Sharp, Ansimov, and Hartman to name a few. Then there is the bottom-6 or usually 4th line level talent.

It’s hard for a player to make a big leap up the developmental ladder. A players usually has a two or three step ladder and they don’t often skip a step. Meaning if the player is in their early 20’s, normally they are going to go up only one or two spots. AHL top-6 forward to a NHL depth forward to maxed out and fully developed 4th line level forward as an example.

With Fortin’s lack of scoring in junior and current age, it’s unwise to expect much out of him besides a future depth, bottom-6 forward. Obviously things can change. Prospects underperform and outperform their expectations. Right now, I project Alexander Fortin as a future 15-25 point scorer in the NHL. I imagine he won’t receive much NHL playing time this year or next. Possibly 2019-20 will be the season when he breaks into the NHL lineup on a consistent basis.