The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
We officially start this year’s Raw Charge Top 25 Under 25 ranking of Tampa Bay Lightning prospects with one of the newest additions to the pipeline, forward Gabriel Fortier. Fortier was the Bolts’ second-round pick in this summer’s NHL draft and he is the only player from this year’s class who will be featured in the rankings. Third-round pick Dmitry Semykin received a couple of votes but did not make the cut.
To start, let’s look at the voting breakdown. This year, readers participated in the voting along with the Raw Charge staff. Fortier received some votes from readers but did not make the final reader list. He barely made the combined list buoyed by votes from our writers.
The Lightning selected Fortier 59th overall from Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Lightning have been adding prospects from the QMJHL frequently recently. Undrafted free agent Alex Barré-Boulet will be featured later in this series. Defender Radim Salda did not make these rankings but is another recent Lightning selection from Quebec. Even the coach of the Syracuse Crunch Ben Groulx was in the QMJHL before the Lightning hired him for their AHL affiliate.
Fortier doesn’t have the high-end upside of some of the players we’ll cover later in the series but he has the profile of a player who has a decent chance to make the NHL and contribute in a bottom six role. He has an outside shot at developing into a second line winger but a more reasonable projection for him is third or fourth liner who will play a reliable game and bring a scoring punch.
Fortier will likely spend the next two years continuing to work on his game in junior hockey. He won’t be expected to make the jump to professional hockey in the AHL until the 2020-2021 season. The Lightning currently have a glut of forwards in Tampa and Syracuse so Fortier won’t be under any pressure to develop. He’ll have plenty of time to move at the pace that is best for him.
When he does make it to the next level, Lightning fans should expect another forward in the mold of recent Tampa forward draftees. Fortier is relentless on the forecheck. He’s a creative player with a good sense for the game. He plays a smart if not spectacular style.
His ceiling as a professional will be determined by his scoring. If his all-around game continues to develop the way it has so far, he should be able to find a home on the bottom two lines in the NHL. But if he can improve his finishing and start racking up points more consistently, he could push his ceiling up a bit from where it is now.
In our profile of Fortier after the draft, we described his offensive game:
Encouragingly, he does most of his work from dangerous areas. He spends most of his time in the slot area, particularly in the low slot. Getting to those areas is more difficult in the NHL, but the Lightning already have two players in Gourde and Brayden Point who’ve proved that players of smaller stature can still be dangerous around the net.
One additional thing to note is that the Lightning generate most of their offense from the slot. Some teams take lots of point shots. Some teams work from the circles. The Lightning’s team shot charts are distinctly focused on the slot. Only the scouts know if this something that they look for in prospects but from this chart, Fortier’s offensive game sure seems to fit in perfectly with how the Lightning like to run their offense.
The Lightning have a specific type of forward they like to draft and Fortier fits that profile. He has the well-rounded game the team likes including the intelligence, creativity, and effort to be impactful in a variety of roles. He lacks the scoring talent to be considered a top prospect but he has enough in the toolbox to make him an intriguing addition to the pipeline.
Check out our profile on Fortier for a more in-depth look at his game and stats.