Gabriel Fortier is a player who seems to leap off the ice when you watch his team. He isn’t a top prospect, but should go in the second or third round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Fortier is listed as a left wing, but played centre all year for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and made an impact in all situations. For a first-year draft eligible player, he showed all sorts of things you want to see in a player.
Birthplace: Lasalle, Quebec
Date of birth: February 6, 2000
Position: Centre/Left Wing
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Fortier is the younger brother of Maxime Fortier, who went undrafted and was an invite to Montreal Canadiens development camp this past season. He has since signed an entry-level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
There isn’t much that makes Fortier stick out. He has above average skating ability, and most scouts will point it out in various reports. What he does have is an all-around game where he can make things happen offensively but is also very good defensively.
And that is what makes his NHL future appealing. Like many smaller players, Fortier doesn’t have to rely on his offensive tools translating to the next level in order to succeed. In fact, his offensive tools aren’t the best part of his game.
What he does bring is intensity, hard work, speed, and hockey sense. He competes every shift, and many scouts feel that he plays a bigger game than his frame. He’s a very aggressive forechecker and his strong on the puck, which allows him to make plays or kill time while shorthanded.
His shorthanded play was among the best of all QMJHL draft eligible forwards this season. He had two goals while shorthanded, but also finished second among all QMJHL forwards in shots while shorthanded.
He gets knocked for his shot, but it is something that some scouts have noted an improvement in and if he can continue to improve it, it will help him capitalize on the opportunities his speed and hockey sense give him. He’s a type of players that coaches can lean on, putting him on the ice in all situations.
There are some question marks surrounding Fortier. His offensive game is not elite, and for a smaller player, it means there are questions to how much he will be able to score at the professional level. He was fourth among 17-year-olds in QMJHL even-strength primary points despite playing on a Baie-Comeau team that was not very deep. Along with Fortier, their top forwards were Jordan Martel (eligible for his second NHL draft this year), D’Artagnan Joly (2017 6th round, CAL) and Ivan Chekhovich (2017 7th round, SJ).
He also had two goals in five games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament while representing Canada.
The words that come back time and time again for Fortier are energy player. He is a power forward in a small body who has a high motor and it’s his work ethic and energy that could get him to the NHL.
Fortier also wore an ‘A’ for the Drakkar this season.
Future Considerations: #89
Hockey Prospect: #67
Craig Button: #60
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #52
NHL Central Scouting: #49 (North American skaters)
“He may not have high-end scoring skills – 59 points in 66 dates this past winter – but there’s lot to the little plugger’s game, including generally good awareness on the ice and a little untapped potential.”
“A lot of his scoring chances come from his hard work down low and his speed off the rush. His vision and hockey IQ are fine, but if they were better, he’d be a more dominant player offensively. He had his best success offensively this year in the 2nd half of the season, averaging just under a point per game this season despite playing on an average Baie-Comeau team.”
Fortier is not a sure thing. If he was, he wouldn’t be thought of as a guy who will be taken in the second or third round of the Draft. But there is a lot to like about his game.
I saw him play a game against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and he was a player who was clearly the best player on his team that night. He had an assist and played centre on the top line, most of the time facing off against the Armada’s top line of Alex Barre-Boulet, Alexandre Alain and Drake Batherson, three of the best scorers in the entire league.
He has grown a lot between his first and second QMJHL seasons, and there is a very real chance that come next year, we will begin to wonder why he wasn’t taken earlier. All of the buzz around the combine was how well he interviewed, which should help him quite a bit. He even met with the Canadiens, who just happen to have five picks in the second and third rounds of the draft.
A lot of people will look at Fortier’s size and feel like the team doesn’t need another player like him, but if you look at guys like Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher as well as Daniel Carr and prospects like Will Bitten, the Canadiens have a template for players who may be overlooked due to their size but who play a game that works at the next level.
As the draft gets into the second half of the second round, I think you should expect to hear Fortier’s name called.