After heading to the WHL for the 68th ranked prospect, we find our way back to the QMJHL with plucky forward Gabriel Fortier landing in the 67th slot of our CanucksArmy prospect rankings.
The Lachine native played a key role on the penalty kill for Team Canada en route to a Gold Medal at the Ivan Hlinka but was left off the U18 roster due to injury.
The diminutive forward is a worker bee out there and gets to the dirty areas of the ice despite giving up size to almost everyone.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.61/ February 6, 2000
- Birthplace: Lachine, QC, CAN
- Frame:5-foot-10/ 190 lbs
- Position: Left Wing
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar(QMJHL)
- QMAAA Champion
- Telus Cup Bronze Medal
- YOG Silver Medal
- Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal
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Selected with the 4th overall selection in the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft, Fortier had an impressive rookie season in 2016-17, scoring eleven goals and six assists in 25 games. He took another step forward this season with consistent production throughout the entire season including some serious work on the power play in the latter parts of the season. He stands out in a few categories offensively and presents an intriguing skillset despite his size. Baie-Comeau Drakkar did pretty well with their first two selections of that Entry Draft, pulling Fortier at 4th and defenceman Xavier Bouchard with the 5th pick.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
Fortier saw his role increase as the season closed out and into the playoffs – he made the most of that opportunity despite Baie-Comeau Drakkar getting bounced in the first round.
Not an overwhelmingly high success rate among his cohorts with 11.1% of stastically comparable players going onto becoming NHL regulars. Max Talbot represents one of the closest comparable players.
Fortier is a smaller forward who plays bigger than his size. He works for every puck that he can get his hands on. He battles in the corners and to get to the front, trying everything he can do to make this happens. Fortier is very quick on his feet, using his edges to adjust his lanes and trajectory quickly. He has good acceleration and top speed that allows him to seperate himself from other players.
Very good on the forecheck and backcheck.
San Jose prospect Ivan Chekhovich and Fortier played the most together and made things happen quite a bit:
Chekhovich went to the AHL to close out the season and played extremely well, posting 9 points in 6 regular season games. The Sharks prospect had 60 points in 65 QMJHL games this past season and Fortier was right behind that pace with 59 points in 66 games.
What had stood out to me about Fortier at the QMJHL level is his ability to slip into the gaps of coverage and get high danger opportunities and that was reinforced by the data below:
Starting with forwards from the OHL
-Brandon Saigeon (overager) seems to be well-rounded offensively and defensively
-Andrei Svechnikov is scoring at an elite pace
-Serron Noel (ranked late 1st round) is really good at getting high danger chances pic.twitter.com/Muf85NuWPp
— Colin Cudmore (@CudmoreColin) February 10, 2018
It’s an underrated skill to be able to slip into those holes and get chances. Luck plays into it, but the ability to read and elude coverage is something that some players can do naturally and that was what Fortier was able to do. Some players will just go to the net and park themselves there, and Fortier is able to go there and battle, but he combines that with quick feet. The puck just seems to gravitate towards him.
Obviously, with any player like Fortier, when giving up that size, he can have trouble with larger players. It’s something that will always be present but he does everything he can to overcome that with work ethic and smarts. Will he be able to overcome that size issue going forward to allow him to produce offensively. He is a really effective penalty killer, as we saw at Ivan Hlinka, but will need to contribute on the scoresheet professionally.
Personally, I am not overly concerned about his size and think that his speed, work ethic and hockey IQ are worth the gamble – it’s entirely possible that we see him put up better numbers next season and be in consideration for the World Junior team.
There is a variety of rankings for Fortier with TSN’s Craig Button being the most bullish on Fortier in his most recent rankings. The average ranking had him slotting in at 68th overall and the consolidated has him a few spots higher at 65th. This suggests that Fortier is firmly in the conversation as a third round selection for teams.
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Speedy, hard-nosed center who plays a 200-foot game and competes hard every shift. Fortier is a threat to score in any situation, including while on the penalty kill. He’s shown great patience and a soft touch around the net, and he’s capable of setting up chances off of board battles. Fortier is more of a finisher than a set-up guy, but he plays a high-speed game and the puck always seems to find him.
Excellent skater that is always in constant motion on the ice – exceptional speed to pull away on plays – creates opportunities from his speed and work ethic – smart and patient player that executes the details well and is relied on in all situations by his team – good vision and ability to make plays in tight spaces – strong compete and battle game on pucks and to the net – a valuable component to any team.