Breakdown: Nashville signs Brandon Fortunato to a two-year, entry-level contract
The free agent defender is still recovering from a broken fibula.
On Friday, in addition to announcing the Lukas Craggs signing, the Nashville Predators announced the signing of collegiate free agent defender Brandon Fortunato to a two-year, entry-level contract. Fortunato was in Nashville this week seeing team doctors regarding his broken fibula suffered in January.
#Preds sign defenseman Brandon Fortunato. https://t.co/DaV9i8d2HZ— x - Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) April 5, 2019
Fortunato, who recently completed his second season at Quinnipiac University (and his fourth season overall), is the second recent free agent signing for the organization from the NCAA ranks. Fortunato highlighted Nashville’s playing style as the deciding factor among several offers (including Washington, I believe) in a recent interview found here.
By The Numbers
Hailing from the North Hills of Long Island, Fortunato has had a fascinating career to date. He joined the US National program after a high school career on Long Island and spent two years in Ann Arbor. On the U18 team, in 2013-14, Fortunato finished third in scoring among defenders in USHL play behind Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski. In development play, he added 27 more points in 61 games, which was good for seventh among all skaters. Sidenote: that national team was a murderer’s row - Eichel, Milano, Tuch, Larkin, Bjork, Gersich, Matthews, Nedeljkovic, etc.
Fortunato joined the Boston University Terriers for their run to an NCAA championship game in 2014-15, scoring 18 points in 41 games which was second among defenders in scoring. In 2015-16, he added four more points, behind Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk.
After his sophomore season, a crowded Terriers’ depth chart forced Fortunato to transfer. He ended up in Hamden with the Quinnipiac Bobcats. After a transfer year in 2016-17, Fortunato disappointed in his junior season with only eight points in 37 games, before breaking back out for 28 points in 26 games this year.
Fortunato suffered a broken fibula in practice and has been out since January and was sorely missed by a Bobcats team that went 6-5-1 without him in the lineup.
A power play specialist who scored 14 of his points on the man advantage, Fortunato has regained his excellent possession game in Connecticut, aided by his fluid skating and discipline - he committed one penalty all season.
The Eye Test
I mentioned how much of a power play specialist Fortunato can be; he’s small in stature but has a really good set of hands. I wanted to highlight how Quinnipiac used him on their man advantage below (I apologize in advance for the video quality):
It may be hard to believe in a world of teams moving to a 4F-1D power play, but that is three defenders the Bobcats have on their man advantage above. Fortunato is the one on the half-wall/in the corner who records a primary assist.
Above is a quick clip of Fortunato as a puck-carrier: he has a drawn-out stride but uses effective control of his edges and his hands to create offense. Nothing results out of this play, but he creates a scoring chance with a rebound and chases his own puck down to the other side of the zone.
Above is a good display of Fortunato’s wrist shot. It’s his most effective offensive tool, and he generally keeps his shots low for good rebound opportunities.
Defensively, Fortunato - #5 in blue - has a tendency to chase and can get away with it because of his stride. In the above clip, you’ll notice way too much north-south movement in his own defensive zone with little recovery.
Like Craggs, Fortunato’s signing age is 23 (despite his real age of 22), so he gets locked up with a two-year deal. If Craggs’ and Fortunato’s deals kick in this season, Nashville has hit its contract limit for the rest of the league year.
He will be a restricted free agent upon expiry in 2020 or 2021.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com. All contract information is courtesy of capfriendly.com.