My general thinking for a prospect projected to go in the later rounds is to favor someone who has been successful in their respective league. Sure, points aren't everything for a prospect. Just because someone racked up a ton of points doesn't mean their skillset will translate to the next level. At the same time, production is evidence that the player's performances have been fruitful in some regard. I'd like to think "diamonds in the rough" are found in the NHL Draft when someone slips through the cracks despite how successful they've been for their team. One possible player may be today's subject for this profile: Maxime Fortier.
Who is Maxime Fortier?
According to Elite Prospects, Maxime Fortier is a forward for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was born on December 15, 1997 and he's listed at 5'10" and 176 pounds. While EP shows that he's a right wing and a center, his stats page at the QMJHL shows that he only took 85 faceoffs last season. I'm inclined to think he's really a winger. In any case, here are his stats at Elite Prospects:
Fortier just finished his second season in the 'Q' and did so in an impressive fashion for Halifax. The Mooseheads weren't very good as they were one of the two non-playoff teams in the league. They also finished fourth from last in goals for with 193. Fortier clearly wasn't the issue. If anything, Fortier was incredibly valuable as his team-leading 77 points meant he was involved in nearly 40% of all goals Halifax scored last season. Fortier wasn't just a Halifax leader in goals (note: only Fortier had more than 13), assists, and power play goals and assists. He was their lead in shots on net and something the QMJHL recordkeepers call "Dangerous Shots." I'm wondering if this is their equivalent to scoring chances? In any case, Fortier blew the rest of the Mooseheads away in those categories with 236 shots on goal and 145 of those being deemed "dangerous." Relative to the rest of the league, Fortier finished 20th in points, tied for 28th in goals, 13th in shots on goal, and tied for 13th in dangerous shots. Needless to say, the Halifax offense ran through Fortier for all intents and purposes.
Since the QMJHL has been counting shots on goal and publicly releasing them for longer than one season, let's take a look at Fortier's rookie season. Going from 9 goals and 21 assists to 31 and 46, respectively, is a big gain. Fortier also made a considerable improvement in shots and dangerous shots as well. In 2014-15, Fortier had 150 shots on goal and 87 dangerous shots; both ranked fifth on the team in that season. Among QMJHL rookies, Fortier finished fifth in shots on goal and sixth in dangerous shots. My takeaway from that is that Fortier was fairly prolific for a rookie and he only built on that in a big way on a bad Halifax team in 2015-16. That combined with the fact that he produced so much more than his teammates suggests to me that his numbers are worth getting excited about.
What Others Say About Maxime Fortier
Unfortunately, the production at Halifax did not garner Fortier much attention from scouts. Central Scouting Services rated him at 145th among North American skaters in their midterm and final rankings. A ranking that low suggests that Fortier will be picked late in the draft, if at all. He appears to recognize that according to this April 18, 2016 article at the Halifax Chronicle Herald. To that end, there's not much there about him.
I will point out these two mentions by Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief at USA Today. He listed Fortier as "rising" twice over the past season. The first was in November 2015:
Maxime Fortier — Best early season surprise for us in the Q has shown flair, imagination, and scoring touch.
Maxime Fortier (Halifax) — We thought his prolific scoring pace would drop off when the Mooseheads traded away his veteran linemates. Instead he picked up the pace and began leading on the ice.
The two mentions combined revealed that someone at RLR was impressed with what Fortier has done at Halifax - even after the team got weaker. His production on paper justifies both mentions. The hope is that there are a few NHL scouts that feel something similar about him.
The May mock draft at The Draft Analyst actually does include Fortier in their fourth round. 92nd, to be precise, which would go to Anaheim. Steve Kournianos had this to say in his short description of the player:
Relentless skill forward with blinding speed and a very good shot who carried the Mooseheads after star winger Timo Meier was moved to Rouyn-Noranda. Fortier led his club in scoring with 31 goals and 77 points, playing top-line minutes alongside pivot Otto Somppi. The Ducks could use size on the flanks, but much like Alex DeBrincat, Fortier is too talented a finisher to let an inch or two get in the way of drafting him.
The only other profile on Fortier I could find as of this writing comes from Marshall Mackinder at HockeyNow. He had this to say about Fortier's game:
Lightning quick speedster is always playing at top speed and it’s difficult to slow him down. Shoots the puck a lot and is finding success following his shots up and going to the net. Not a very tall kid, has a good balance on his skates and can turn on a dime and leave defenders in the dust. Has a good release and skates the puck down the wing real well. Would like to see him play better away from the puck as he does get caught standing still too often.
I'm not sure what the grade is about, but a picture begins to form between all of these short descriptions of Fortier. He's very fast, he shoots the puck a lot, his shot is good, he can finish plays, he's small, and defense appears to be the biggest flaw in his game. Basically, he's been a fast and frequent scorer - and that's it.
A Little Video
While there isn't a collection of highlights of Fortier, there are individual videos of some of his goals. Here are two uploaded by John Moore (no, not the Devils defenseman) from last season. This is Fortier's first goal of 2015-16:
It certainly showcases his speed down the wing. That sweet wraparound also shows that he can be smooth in motion with the puck. This second video is a bit more telling. Yes, Fortier scores in this one too but pay attention to the beginning:
This play begins with Fortier getting bodied at his endboards, his man goes around the net for a close shot as Fortier doesn't really give chase, Fortier tries to get back into the play, he gets the puck away from the point man, and then he breaks away from him and everyone else. It's a play that shows his great speed, his shot, and some less than ideal defending.
An Opinion of Sorts
I wish there were more opinons out there on Fortier that would go more into depth about his game beyond that he's fast, he's got a good shot, he uses that shot a lot, and he's at least suspect on defense. I'd like to know whether he's good at passing the puck as his 46 assists would suggest. I'd like to know whether he's made improvements throughout the season. I'd like to know how he performs when he's not getting on the scoresheet. I'd really, really like to know how realistic it is to think that the offensive skills he's shown at Halifax will translate to the professional game. While that's an unknown for most prospects, I wonder if his upside is considered to be limited despite producing so much at Halifax. That would go a long way in thinking that he'll go late in the draft as opposed to the middle of it. Alas, it is what it is.
That being said, I would not mind if the Devils spent one of their last three picks on Fortier. One of the fourth round picks may be justifiable with further information, but I would think the Devils' scouts would have to love what they saw from him to make that suggestion. It goes back to what I wrote at the beginning of this profile. Fortier may not have much of a projection and may really only be a fast and frequent scorer - in that if he's not scoring or flying, then he's not doing much at all. But he has been successful on his team and at the QMJHL level. The numbers show it and that he's seen as a speedster means he's definitely moving better than most of his peers. I'd rather take the chance on a player like him late in the NHL Draft rather than someone who was struggling or not as productive at their level of hockey.
Maxime Fortier may get picked; I'd like to think he will if only because he's done what he could in 2015-16. Would you want the Devils draft him if he's available late in the draft (rounds 5-7)? Why or not? What about Fortier impresses you more? What about him concerns you? If you've seen him play at Halifax in this past season, then what did you think? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Fortier in the comments. Thank you for reading.