Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Ryan Francis.
Drafted by the Cape Breton (Screaming) Eagles in the second round, 21st overall, in the 2017 QMJHL Draft, forward Ryan Francis broke out in his third year in the league. He put up 24 goals and 48 assists for 72 points in 61 games before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Francis also played one game for Team QMJHL in the Canada-Russia Super Series.
The Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia native took some time to find his legs in the QMJHL. In 2017-18 he put up 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in 58 games as a rookie. Francis also added one assist in five playoff games. In 2018-19, Francis scored 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points in 64 games for Cape Breton. He also added two assists in nine playoff games as the Eagles were eliminated by the Rimouski Oceanic in the second round.
Prior to joining the QMJHL, Francis played for the Cole Harbour Wolfpack. With 17 goals and 51 points in 37 games in 2016-17, he was named the NSMMHL Rookie of the year. He also played for Team Nova Scotia in the QGC Cup, scoring two goals and 10 points in five games.
Ryan Francis Scouting Report
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born December 2nd, 2001 — Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia
Height 5’9″ — Weight 168 lbs [175 cm / 76 kg]
Francis’ skating ability is a little hit or miss. Coming in at just 5-foot-9, one would like to see him be an elite skater. His edgework and agility are close to that elite level. He can make extremely quick cuts and is very slippery when trying to get past a defender. When he makes a move, his footwork is excellent and he is able to accelerate out of his turns. However, he could work on his overall stride and increase his lower body strength. His speed is above average but he is not a speedster. His acceleration and first step are also good but not great. Improving his lower body strength would also improve Francis balance, and help him to be stronger on the puck.
Francis is an excellent playmaker. He is a very good stick-handler, able to carry the puck through the neutral zone and create successful zone entries. He keeps his head up and has excellent vision and hockey IQ. Francis reads the play well and anticipates where teammates are going, finding a passing lane and setting them up for good scoring opportunities. He can create chances with passes on both his forehand and backhand. Francis can also make a slick move to create a scoring chance. He is good at running the power play from the half boards.
Francis has an accurate wrist shot and his release is very good. However, he will need to add more power to his shot to score from further out at the next level. As it stands, his shot lacks power and he will really need to get to the net in order to score. His slapshot could also be stronger. It is hoped that as he adds upper-body strength, he can improve this aspect of his game. He also could stand to get stronger along the boards in order to win more puck battles and be stronger in the cycle game.
Francis plays a responsible defensive game. He is willing to backcheck and support the defence. With good backpressure against the rush, Francis forces attackers to the outside and away from the front of the net. He also reads the play well, getting himself into positions to intercept the puck and create turnovers. Once those are created, he is good at moving the puck up the ice and transitioning to offence. However, the lack of size and strength can be a liability in his own end of the rink. He can be pushed off the play when facing bigger and stronger forwards in the cycle game.
Projection and Comparison
Francis has many of the offensive tools to be a top-six forward at the next level. However, he will need to improve his strength and his speed in order to be able to play his style at the next level. Like many players ranked in this area of the draft, there are skills but also areas that need improvement. His defensive game will certainly help him if he can keep improving it. Francis’ game is reminiscent of Tyler Ennis, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and potential.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Ryan Francis that are available on youtube and twitter.
— Brandon Holmes (@BHolmes_Hockey) April 1, 2020
— Brandon Holmes (@BHolmes_Hockey) May 1, 2020
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) September 29, 2019
Ryan Francis (Cape Breton) dances around Thimo Nickl (Drummondville). Francis shows off his speed and crashes the net. Quality scoring chance for the Cape Breton Eagles forward.
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 17, 2020
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Ryan Francis Main Photo:
One of the great things about junior hokey is seeing the future stars of pro hockey in your backyard! Ryan Francis is among the QMJHL stars, profiled here, looking ahead to the 2020 NHL draft!https://t.co/aBfjUrrRV8 pic.twitter.com/XFoCHg5uZR
— Cape Breton Eagles (@CBEHockey) April 5, 2020