CORNWALL, P.E.I. – Xavier Fortin was confident in his own ability to make the Charlottetown Islanders as a 16-year-old forward.
After being drafted in the third round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft, Fortin said he prepared to be in the best shape possible when camp opened in mid-August.
Two weeks later, about 20 players were cut and the Mirabel, Que., native remained, having earned his jersey for the season.
“In my head, I (believed I) could make the team, and I worked hard this summer,” he said Thursday before practice. “I’m very happy to make the team and I’ll try to have a good (role) on the team.”
Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said Fortin earned his spot on the roster on merit.
“He’s been one of the best players throughout our camp from start to finish. We kept waiting to see if there was a dip in his performance, and there never was.”
The Islanders entered training camp with the majority of its squad back from the team that went to the semifinal in the spring. It meant most spots were spoken for, but there were a couple of positions up for grabs.
“We wanted to leave ourselves open to see who came in and earned the spots. Quite frankly, Fortin was probably not a guy we would have penciled in,” Hulton said. “What separated him was his hockey sense.”
Hulton spent much of the early part of camp watching from the corner box at the APM Centre in Cornwall. He admitted Fortin was able to bring him, and others, to the edge of their seat on almost a daily basis with his play.
“You’re always looking for someone to jump off the chart,” he said. “He’s an elusive, crafty type (of) guy who’s going to put up points. He thinks the game offensively.”
The key for the coaching staff will be to find him a way to succeed and not allow his confidence to erode.
Like any 16-year-old player, Fortin has to get bigger and stronger and the five-foot-nine, 150-pound centre knows it.
“The big difference is the physical (element),” he said.
But, Hulton said, the youngster’s hockey sense allows him not to get into positions where he could get hurt. He used captain Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph as a similar example at the same age.
Keith Getson made the Isles as a 16-year-old and now is entering his fifth major junior season.
“Coming into the first training camp, it’s pretty nerve-wrecking, so I kind of know exactly what he’s going through,” he said. “He’s a skilled guy and we’re looking forward to see him play.”
This is Fortin’s first time being in Prince Edward Island. He said his billets are great and while he’s not fully bilingual, Fortin does well speaking English. He said he has to concentrate to understand instructions during practices but said having Zachary Beauregard on the team helps as the two played against each other in Quebec’s midget AAA league in the past.
“It’s perfect,” Fortin said. “He speaks French like me, and we can talk about any problem we have.”
Need to know
A look at Charlottetown Islanders rookie forward Xavier Fortin.
Age – 16.
Hometown – Mirabel, Que.
Size, position – Five-foot-nine, 150-pound centre.
Acquired – Third-round pick (37th overall) in the 2018 QMJHL draft.
Head coach Jim Hulton: “I think he can emerge to be a Kam Kielly type, and that’s a bold statement because Kam was a hell of a player. . . Quickness and hockey sense allowed Kam to be a real good 200-foot player and contribute in a lot of ways, and I think Xavier has a lot of the same traits.”
2017-18 statistics with Saint-Eustache Vikings
GP G A Pts.
38 7 13 20