In the 11th spot of the 2021 Raw Charge Top 25 Under 25 ranking we have another interesting two-way talent, who is expected to be knocking on the door of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first team in near future. In his third year with the organization, Gabriel Frontier keeps relentlessly moving to the top of our list, stopping just one position behind the top-10 this year. In comparison with last year’s ranking, Gabriel Fortier jumped two positions on our list. Both writers and readers have shown a solidarity, placing him at the beginning of the second group of ten.
Fortier was the Lightning’s first selection of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft as the 59th overall pick from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 21-year-old had a remarkably long and successful career in the QMJHL, recording 230 (110+120) points in 236 games over five years, while playing for two different teams. Not only did he excel on the ice, but also earned a “C” on his sweater during his stints with both teams he played for in the QMJHL.
As with many other players, the 2020-21 season had been really weird for Fortier. He was expected to join the Syracuse Crunch ahead of the new season, but due to the postponement of the AHL season, Fortier returned to the Moncton Wildcats, his QMJHL team. However, the QMJHL season didn’t go as planned either and because of several cancellations and postponements Fortier played just 13 games over the first half of the season. Eventually the Wildcats traded him to the Shawinigan Cataractes, but he never suited up for them.
Last January he joined the Crunch training camp and finally started the season in the AHL. It wasn’t his first stint in the AHL, as he already played five games for Syracuse in 2019, but this year he made the team as a regular player, appearing in 30 out of 32 total games. Fortier started his 2020-21 campaign in the AHL with two goals over the Utica Comets, helping his team to claim a 6-1 win.
After such a vivid start, Fortier’s offensive production slowed down. Over 30 games in the AHL he scored just 10 (6+4) points, which isn’t bad, but probably not what was expected from a player with NHL upside. Very likely his size played a significant part in this, making his transition a little bit harder — Fortier, who’s listed as a 5’10”, 174 pound player and known for his habit of getting close to the opposition, where he usually generates the offense, struggled against other AHL players. However, despite those issues, he earned a “Rookie of the Year“ in Syracuse.
Time to start handing out our end of year team awards!— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) June 9, 2021
We’re kicking it off with Rookie of the Year going to Gabe Fortier.
No. 9 put up 10 points (6g, 4a) in 30 games this season. pic.twitter.com/1ucWbaMh09
The defensive part of his game remains the best part. He is a solid shorthanded player, scoring one of his goals last season with one man down. The lack of size is offset with his tremendous speed, which also helps him on penalty kill.
Writing about Fortier last year, our writer Lauren had pointed out that his passing is one of the weakest sides of his performance, which still could be applied this year [Raw Charge]
Passing will be Fortier’s biggest area for improvement as he heads off to professional hockey. A lot of his assists last season were the result of him being in front of the net battling for pucks, or digging pucks out of corners. When Fortier has the opportunity, he is able to one-time pucks fairly accurately and effectively, but he’s not always in those areas of the ice to be able to pull those passes off. Fortier will need to defer to his teammates more often, especially as he heads off to Syracuse. Individual efforts are more difficult to pull off in the AHL than they are in the Q.
Fortier played in all three games at the recent Prospect Showcase tournament, which finished yesterday with a game against a team of prospects of the Florida Panthers. He mostly played his natural position as a left wing, usually with Simon Ryfors and Maxim Cajkovic as his linemates. He finished the tournament with two assists, both were scored in the first game against a team of prospects of the Nashville Predators.
Fortier has two other years under the entry-level contract with the Lightning. The upcoming season will be very important for him as he will potentially play a bigger role in Syracuse. Fortier still needs time to fully adjust his performance to a professional level, that’s why a call up to the Lightning shouldn’t be expected, at least in the first half of the season. In the line of the Lightning prospects, waiting to get an opportunity, he’s definitely further than Boris Katchouk or Taylor Raddysh, but he will get plenty of opportunities later. During the next two years, the contracts of Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn will expire, leaving a big hole on the left side on the Lightning’s roster and Fortier could be the one who will be able to fill it.
I don’t really see him as a top-six player, but he could become a pretty solid bottom-six player. He’s a relentless worker with two-way abilities, which perfectly fits the Lightning’s philosophy.
Gabe Fortier redirects the shot from Alex Green for his 6th goal of the season. Antoine Morand also picks up an assist. pic.twitter.com/WA3Q2BWnJz— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) May 16, 2021
Gabe Fortier redirects the puck home for his 5th goal of the season. Grigori Denisenko (FLA) and Ben Thomas pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/47EbzMHT44— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) April 25, 2021
Great job by Gabe Fortier to force the turnover for the breakaway, he’s stopped, but Henry Bowlby (FLA) finds Otto Somppi to put it home for his 5th goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/DLTXSwoPnw— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) April 18, 2021