The Chicago Blackhawks don’t quite know what they have in 19-year-old Alexandre Fortin yet, but they might take some time early in the season to find out. Coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday that the team is still considering the possibility of giving Fortin a nine-game trial to open the 2016-17 season.
Fortin has been a breakout prospect for Chicago since he joined the team’s prospect camp in July. The winger went undrafted over the past two years, but earned a three-year entry-level contract from the Hawks in September.
Now, after a strong preseason, there’s even a chance that Fortin could start the upcoming season on the Hawks’ roster. Per NHL rules, any player who signs an ELC at age 18 or 19 and doesn’t turn 20 by December 31 of their signing year can appear in up to nine NHL/AHL games without burning a year of their contract.
That means Fortin can play in up to nine games with the Blackhawks to open the season and still have his contract “slide,” which means his deal would expire after the 2019-20 season instead of the 2018-19 season. So the Hawks could potentially give Fortin an extended audition period to open this season then decide whether to keep him and burn a year of his ELC, or send him back to the QMJHL to develop and “slide” the contract.
Fortin has already blown away expectations at each stop over the past few months, so maybe the Hawks are curious whether he can do it again at the NHL level. It would be a remarkable run for a teenager who went undrafted the past two years, but Coach Q is seriously considering at least an audition.