By Adam Wazny
The Winnipeg Sun
WINNIPEG, Manitoba – You can label Wade Flaherty as the most valuable player on the Moose roster and perhaps Jesse Schultz would garner most of the votes as the club’s top forward, but Manitoba’s best defenseman?
Well, that could incite a lengthy argument.
Regardless of how you value any of the seven regulars with the Moose this season — whether the offensive presence of all-star Sven Butenschon is the most important or the all-around game demonstrated by Tomas Mojzis and Prestin Ryan is a determining factor — one thing is certain.
No one has been a bigger surprise than Maxime Fortunus, who had 42 points (11g-31a) and 53 penalty minutes in 123 regular season games with the Louisiana IceGators in 2003-05.
Even his eyebrows are raised.
“I wanted to have a full season in the American league,” Fortunus said plain and simple when asked what he wanted to accomplish when the Moose signed him to an AHL contract last August. “I played two seasons in the (ECHL) and I didn’t want to go back. It’s something I achieved this year … I’m really happy about that.”
It’s seems like such a simple, easily attainable goal for the defenseman — especially when you watch him play these days.
Blessed with a seemingly non-stop motor, the 22-year-old has found a place near and dear to Alain Vigneault’s heart this season. The Moose coach has stuck with Fortunus for most of the season, using the La Prairie, Que., product as a reliable rearguard in key defensive situations.
In the past two seasons, Fortunus has appeared in just 26 games with Houston. This season, he’s played in 56 games with the Moose.
He may not score a lot, but sticking in Winnipeg is a goal that appears to have already achieved.
“It’s funny, I knew I could do it,” said Fortunus, who has just two goals and eight points. “When I got called up to Houston last year, I played some games and I really surprised myself.
“Then, I wasn’t sure if I could play (in the AHL). After that, it really pushed me to focus on making it this year.”