Two to Consider: Kane LaFranchise and Brett Olson

Ryan Pike
May 28 2014 08:15AM

In the aftermath of a 2013-14 AHL season that saw the Abbotsford Heat make the playoffs, lose in the first round and then move to Glens Falls, there were quite a few obvious bright spots. Max Reinhart continued his progression. Corban Knight translated his two-way NCAA prowess to the AHL (and even had a nice NHL audition). Markus Granlund and Joni Ortio brought Finnish flash to the NHL during their brief recalls. Heck, Michael Ferland was a wrecking ball before he got hurt.

But two AHLers were bright spots for the Heat to the point were I think that Craig Conroy or Brad Treliving, or whoever's in charge of minor pro players nowadays, should try to retain them for the Adirondack Heat. I'd probably throw NHL two-way deals at these guys.

KANE LaFRANCHISE

Without a shadow of a doubt, the man with the best name in professional sports. Originally from Edmonton (boo!), LaFranchise turned 26 yesterday. He played three years at the University of Alaska-Anchorage - Curtis Glencross' old school - and has spent the bulk of his pro career with the Alaska Aces.

This year, LaFranchise benefited from the Flames development deal with the Aces by spending the bulk of the year with the Heat - James Martin and John Ramage went in the opposite direction. He put up 13 points in 34 games with Abbotsford. His offensive production was behind only Chad Billins and Derek Smith among Heat defenders.

His underlying numbers are better than John Ramage's, which isn't a huge complement, but LaFranchise was leaned upon heavily by Troy G. Ward down the stretch. He's 26, so he wouldn't be subject to the entry-level system, but a two-way deal at NHL league minimum (or slightly above) wouldn't be a huge gamble.

And for a Heat club that'll have a bunch of young players in their first two years of pro hockey (Sieloff, Kulak, Culkin, Wotherspoon, Ramage) and a bunch of veterans heading into free agency (Breen, Smith, Cundari), LaFranchise is a veteran guy with several years of pro experience who can carry water, but you won't feel crushed if he sits now and then for a kid to play.

Plus, c'mon - LaFranchise is French for "The Franchise." Folks in Glens Falls will love him.

BRETT OLSON

Quick, without looking, who was fifth in scoring for the Heat this year? You'd probably be shocked to learn that it's 27-year-old Brett Olson. This University of Wisconsin product has spent both of his pro years with the Heat, playing the bulk of both seasons - including amassing 41 points in 75 games this season. He's never been sent down to the ECHL, something that can't be said for a lot of prospects on NHL deals.

If nothing else, Olson's a model of consistency. He's not bad at anything, but he's not great at anything either, which is probably why he's where he is. But Ward has played him 145 times in the past two seasons, indicating a great deal of trust. And heck, Olson was a difference-maker for the Heat more often than many of the Flames' draftees (*cough*Sven*cough*).

And as with LaFranchise and the defenders, a lot of veterans are pending free agents (notably Ben Street and Blair Jones). LaFranchise is an older player with consistency and a great deal of familiarity with the team and coaching staff. And he'd probably be more affordable than other veteran options for the AHL team.

Unfortunately, though, Olson's name doesn't mean something bad-ass in French. He's "just" a pretty good AHL player.

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Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's covered the Flames and the NHL since 2010. His work can also be found at The Hockey Writers and The Wrestling Observer.
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#1 SeanCharles
May 28 2014, 09:00AM
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Not to be negative but looks like Blair Jones, Derek Smith 2.0's.

I like them but not sure how much NHL upside there is.

They fill our two biggest weaknesses on defence and RH forwards so they may get a look but they are more likely depth players so is it worth the contract?

I don't know, possibly...

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#2 Bean-counting cowboy
May 28 2014, 10:17AM
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I think these would be deals that get done before start of the season when other options have been exhausted.

On an unrelated note, Rene Bourque has nearly as many goals in the playoffs as he did all season. If Montreal somehow snuck into the cup final as a result of his play and Fucale turns into something... that trade isn't looking quite so bad for them anymore - It's not like they needed Ramo.

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#3 PrairieStew
May 28 2014, 10:48AM
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Olson a difference maker ?

Sven 21 yrs old 55 points in 73 AHL games Olson 27 yrs old 62 points in 145 AHL games.

I like the fact that Olson went from 18 to 44 points but lets face it - even if he doubles his production again he is what - Ben Street at 28 ? No thanks - move on - would rather sign a 20 year old undrafted guy.

Lafranchise ?

As I said on the other post - similar in size to Billins, Cundari and Ramage who are 1, 2 and 3 years younger respectively. 44 AHL games in 4 years as a pro. Not, I repeat NOT an offensive threat 78 points in 157 ECHL games.

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#4 McRib
May 28 2014, 12:58PM
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@PrairieStew

"would rather sign a 20 year old undrafted guy."

So basically just sign a younger version of Brett Olson (who we have invested two years in)... Anyone that has just increased offensive output by 44% is worth keeping around for another year or two to see what we have, IMO.

For the most part all of the top undrafted guys are already signed (Barclay Goodrow, Dane Fox, Greg Carey, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Mitch Holmberg, Cody Corbett, Brady Brassart, etc). So best case we end up with an identical player to Olson without two years of AHL experience....

Max Reinhart, Markus Granlund, Sven Bärtschi, Corban Knight (and possibly even Michael Ferland) should spend some time in the NHL next year, so we need some depth to fill in at the AHL level. The Heat would have finished two or three spots higher this season and likely made at least the second round of the AHL playoffs (with easier first round opponent) if they performed better when all the young players were called up to the Flames in Feb/March. Bill Arnold, Kenny Agostino are not going to singlehandedly replace (Ben Street, Blair Jones) due to a lack of pro experience if we let those vets walk. We might as well sign Olson for the time being to help younger guys transition to pro.

Agree with your comments on Lafranchise don't see any worth in signing him as Kulak, Culkin and Sieloff can replace what he contributed and much more, he is a replacement level AHLer.

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#5 Baalzamon
May 28 2014, 01:24PM
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@McRib

Why would we let Street walk, though? He's the same age as Olson, and much better.

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#6 BJ
May 28 2014, 05:16PM
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Meh... depth I guess...although we have a plethora of guys that can potentially fill a bottom 6 role... and some like Agostino Reinhart who may thrive in such a role.

Not really crucial or notable either way. Both can probably be replaced by College FAs or FAs coming out of junior or europe a la Wolf.

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#7 PrairieStew
May 28 2014, 05:43PM
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@McRib

Do you think a 27 year old guy is still improving ? Enough to be an impact player at the AHL level, which what you have to be in order to even get a sniff at the NHL ( see Street, Ben and Jones, Blair).

Let's say he increased his production from 0.6 ppg to 1.0 ppg in the AHL (which is a stretch since his career ppg in the NCAA is 0.73 and he never had a 1.0 ppg season). I can think of a guy the Flames had not that long ago that was a ppg player at 27 in the AHL - Jamie Lundmark. In 08-09 this former first round pick with 225 games of previous NHL experience put up a point per game with Quad Cities. Good enough for a couple of call ups that year and the next totaling 54 games and 25 points. Decidedly meh. Since that time sliding down the European ladder to the Austrian league.

So ya I would rather sign a 20 year old who might yet improve - or keep a 23 year old Ben Hanowski whose production this year was similar to Olson's.

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#8 BurningSensation
May 28 2014, 08:10PM
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Awesome stuff, Ryan! The level of detail you guys can bring to our farm system is really impressive.

It really is a crying shame that Seiloff's injuries have blitzed him so hard, he has that 'Denis Gauthier' profile that I have always kind of liked.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Flames used most or all of their 2nd and 3rd rnd picks on D-men of some stripe, with our first pick being used on Sam Reinhart (cuz the draft is going to go: Ekblad, Bennett, Draisatl, and then us).

Personally, I'm hoping a Julius Honka slips to us (he won't, I know).

On a separate, unrelated, and utterly self-serving note, I have a new column up at Puck Rant where I rail at one of my personal hobby-horses;

http://www.puckrant.com/Calgary_Flames/How_to_fix_the_NHLs_scoring_drought

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#9 Baalzamon
May 28 2014, 08:33PM
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@BurningSensation

I saw this draft site the other day and have been debating whether to link it or not. I have to say I'd be satisfied with the haul they have the Flames getting. I mean it's not spectacular or anything, but it's about as good as we could realistically hope for.

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#10 PrairieStew
May 29 2014, 08:52AM
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@Baalzamon

two more small defenseman ? I hope not.

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#11 Baalzamon
May 29 2014, 09:26AM
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@PrairieStew

The WHL website and EliteProspects both have Mayo at 6'1"

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#12 BurningSensation
May 29 2014, 03:43PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

I saw this draft site the other day and have been debating whether to link it or not. I have to say I'd be satisfied with the haul they have the Flames getting. I mean it's not spectacular or anything, but it's about as good as we could realistically hope for.

I disagree, getting; Reinhart, Honka and MacInnis would be EXCELLENT

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