The last day for the Calgary Flames to sign Ryan Francis (or not) has arrived
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike7 months ago
The off-season is a time full of deadlines and decision points, and one such date is upon the Calgary Flames. June 1 is the deadline for the Flames to sign (or not sign) 2020 fifth-round selection Ryan Francis. If he’s not signed by 3 p.m. MT, the Flames lose his rights.
There’s a case to be made to opt in or out of Francis.
The case for Francis
After being a pretty ordinary player in his first two QMJHL seasons with Cape Breton in 2017-18 and 2018-19, Francis exploded offensively in his draft year of 2019-20. He quickly established himself as Cape Breton’s best player, and despite being small physically he managed to score at nearly a point-per-game pace at even strength.
The Flames don’t have a ton of right shot forwards in their system, and having an offensive-minded player like Francis that can play the wing or up the middle would be pretty useful. The list of righties under contract for 2022-23 right now outside of the NHL is just Walker Duehr and Adam Klapka. Having more right shot options seems prudent.
In our most recent prospect rankings, compiled last summer, we voted Francis the eighth-best prospect in the Flames’ system. Here’s what our Shane Stevenson wrote:
As we can see in Mitch Brown’s tracking of Francis it shows excellent offensive numbers – being a premier creator of scoring chances and extended offensive zone time. He struggles to get out of his own zone – a sign that a playdriving center might be needed for him. Not the best sign, but all of his offensive instincts outweigh that concern.
Francis is a playmaker, not a play-driver, but playmakers are still useful and valuable.
The case against Francis
If I’m the Flames, I might be worried about his progression a little bit. In terms of NHLe (NHL equivalent, a converted estimation of lower-league production to the NHL), his 27.49 NHLe draft year production jumped to 36.39 in the 2019-20 season and then dropped to 28.03 this season.
From an even strength production standpoint, he had 0.381 goals per game and .902 points per game in his draft year, then dipped to 0.281 goals per game (and had a slight bump to 1 point per game) in his Draft+1 season, then dipped to 0.278 goals per game and 0.778 points per game this season.
Usually overage forwards of Francis’ ilk dominate their leagues before going pro. Despite becoming a more physically mature player with more extensive QMJHL experience than the players he was playing against, and playing on a stacked Saint John Sea Dogs team that’s hosting the Memorial Cup in June, his overall per-game scoring dropped and his even strength per-game scoring dripped fairly significantly.
Finally, let’s address the size thing. His size itself isn’t the issue. But here’s a list of the forward prospects listed by the Flames media guide as being 5’10” or shorter: Rory Kerins, Jakob Pelletier, Emilio Pettersen, Matthew Phillips, Luke Philp and Francis. (Matt Coronato and Jack Beck are listed at 5’10” by some sources, but are 5’11” via the media guide.) The first five guys have contracts right now, and each of them was one of the top players in their respective leagues before getting those entry-level deals.
In a system that’s pretty full of smaller offensive players, Francis isn’t as much of a play-driver as Kerins, Pelletier or Phillips, not as much of a finisher as Philp, and not as dynamic as Pettersen. If the Flames had less of this type of player, Francis is probably a shoo-in. But with as many as the Flames do have, Francis may be the odd man out.
We’ll find out by 3 p.m. MT.
(If Francis isn’t signed, he’ll re-enter the draft. If not selected, he would become a free agent.)
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