With three goals in the first three games of the season, Vancouver Giants forward Cain Franson is already reaping the rewards of another summer of hard work. The third-year forward has gone from a frequent healthy scratch to a vital part of the Giants roster in less than two years.
What makes Franson relevant to the Canucks? Well, for one, he is undrafted. And secondly, he spent this past summer with the Canucks at their annual prospect development camp. He didn’t stand out, but he didn’t look out of place, either. For Franson to earn an NHL contract in the future he has to continue to add size and strength to his lanky 6-0, 170 pound frame (and he has had to work his butt off to get to 170 pounds).
Would he be someone the Canucks look at next summer?
For added motivation, Franson doesn’t have to look far. Former teammate Jordan Martinook was passed over at two consecutive drafts before the Coyotes called his name in the second round of the draft this past June. After scoring only 11 goals as a 19-year-old with the Giants, Martinook’s hockey future was in question. However, he came back as a 20-year-old and was dominant, scoring 40 goals in 72 games.
Franson’s progression has been similarly impressive. He scored only three games as a 17-year-old rookie in 2010-11, and his future with the Giants (and in hockey) was far from secure. However, he spent the 2011 offseason training with his older brother, Cody, and the added strength translated to improved on-ice performance. Franson broke out with 27 goals and 58 points last year.
Cody wouldn’t allow Cain to give up on his hockey dream so quickly.
He admitted he had doubts about his ability to make an impact at the major junior level. But big brother Cody, a Giants alumnus and current Toronto Maple Leaf, was having none of it. He took Cain with him to Kelowna to train last summer at Crash Conditioning and whatever magic dust was sprinkled on Cain, it worked.
Crash Conditioning has locations in Calgary and Kelowna, and a significant number of NHL players train there. Cain spent time honing his craft against defenders like Cody, Florida’s Keaton Ellerby, and Long Island’s Ty Wishart. Duncan Keith and Mike Green also train at Crash Conditioning (the Calgary location, though).
Franson didn’t hear his name called in any of the seven rounds at the draft for a second straight year. However, Red Line Report was really impressed with Franson’s play in 2011-12.
Cain has learned to use his big frame to his advantage on the cycle and when battling down low, and he gives Vancouver’s skilled forwards the space to make plays. He’s a bit of a gentle giant, however, and we’d like to see him add more bulk and grit to his game in the future. But his puckhandling and vision have seen him jump from six points last year to 56 this season, and his plus-24 rating is a good indication that he’s taking his defensive responsibilities much more seriously now as well.
We think he has shown enough that some NHL club will come calling in June.
While their prediction of Franson getting drafted fell short, Red Line is a reputable scouting source and their analysis of Franson’s improvements is spot on.
He is playing a prominent role on the Giants this season. Along with skilled winger Marek Tvrdon, Franson is expected to supply the bulk of the offense.
“I got stronger and faster over the summer and I feel like I’m a lot better and ready to take the next step. I’m still a little bit lighter than I’d like because it’s hard to keep weight on during training camp when we’re doing so much stuff. I’m shooting to be a top-six guy this season and I’m going to do everything in my power to achieve that.
Coach Don Hay noticed a positive difference in Franson for the second consecutive season.
“Cain got stronger physically, he figured out the game and got rewarded for it,” Hay explained. “From what I’ve seen in training camp, he’s going to get more and more responsibility and he’ll be a player who can make a big difference in what type of success we have this season.”
Franson is like a lot of skilled junior players – he needs to get bigger, stronger, and faster in order to develop into a professional hockey player. He has the skill to succeed, and it has become apparent that he has the work ethic to match.
Franson isn’t known as a fighter, but he has shown in the past that he is a willing combatant:
Franson learned a lot from the time he spent at the Canucks prospect camp, and it also gave the Canucks an extended look at him.
“I got to take note of what the competition was like from the OHL and the ‘Q’ and all that,” Franson said, referring to players from the Ontario and Quebec major junior leagues. “I felt I fit in. It was a really good experience and I was able to learn a lot from their coaching staff and trainers.
Franson, on the left, with a few other Canucks prospects after completing the Grouse Grind.
If Franson can score 40 goals like Martinook did last year, the chances of him hearing his name called at next June’s draft are very good. He has the hockey pedigree, the talent, and the work ethic. He just needs to focus on what he can control – his play with the Giants, and his work in the gym.