The Chicago Blackhawks have had a surprise star at prospect camp this week in 19-year-old forward Alexandre Fortin. The Quebec native has been making noise at Johnny's IceHouse West with five goals in three scrimmages and told The Athletic's Scott Powers that he's hoping he's done enough to get a contract offer from Chicago.
Naturally, this brought up questions from fans about how Fortin is eligible to sign a contract given his age. In general, top North American players are required to go through the draft to enter the NHL if they're 20 years old or younger by a certain date (Sept. 15 or Dec. 31, depending on age) of their draft year. Fortin turns 20 in February, so he's technically still eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft.
However, there are some loopholes in the CBA. It appears Fortin is eligible to sign this summer per article 8.9 (ii), which states:
No Player shall be eligible for play in the League unless he had been eligible for claim in the last Entry Draft, but was unclaimed, and ... had played hockey in North America the prior season and was under age 20 at the time of the last Entry Draft, and signed an SPC which was signed and registered with the League between the conclusion of the Entry Draft and commencement of the Major Juniors season (except that if such Player had signed an NHL try-out form, which was signed and registered with the League during the aforesaid time period, then the deadline for signing and registering with the League an SPC with such try-out Club shall be the commencement of the NHL Season).
Fortin played hockey in the QMJHL over the past two years, was under age 20 at the time of the last entry draft and went unclaimed despite being eligible for claim. So he falls into this group, which allows him to sign an SPC (standard player contract) with an NHL team as long as it happens prior to the start of the next major junior season. If Fortin fails to sign a contract with the Blackhawks (or another team) by the beginning of the major junior season, he'll have to return to major juniors and re-enter the 2017 NHL Draft. If all that plays out and Fortin goes undrafted again in 2017, he'd finally become an unrestricted free agent next year.
Still, that means Fortin is indeed eligible to sign a deal this summer as long it happens in the next couple months. The QMJHL begins the 2016-17 season on Sept. 22, and the Hawks could push back the deadline to sign him until the opening of the NHL season by inking him to a tryout contract. Given his performance at camp this week, it wouldn't be too surprising if he's earned himself a flier.