Ryan Francis lighting up Q-league in third season with Cape Breton
Small forward putting up big numbers for Eagles
He's only 17 years old, but Ryan Francis is now a veteran with the Cape Breton Eagles.
In his third season playing with the team, Francis is off to a red-hot start with 14 points in eight games. Earlier this week he was named to the Canadian Hockey League's team of the week after picking up nine points in just three games.
"There really isn't one big thing making a difference this year, I would say," Francis said in an interview in Truro, N.S., during a meal break en route to a game in Moncton, N.B.
"It's just all the hard work I put in over the summer to make me bigger, stronger and faster, and it's just kind of all adding up right now."
Back in the fall of 2017, Francis was a small 15-year-old who impressed the Cape Breton coaching staff right away. He made the team after registering 11 points in eight pre-season games.
Now, with two full Quebec Major Junior Hockey League seasons under his belt, the 5-9, 170-pounder from Beaver Bank, N.S., knows this is a big season for his hockey career. He will be eligible for the 2020 NHL draft and he's hoping some team will take a chance on him.
On Monday, his name appeared as one of 26 Q-league players on the National Hockey League Central Scouting list as players to watch ahead of next spring's draft, to be held in Montreal.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't thinking about it a little bit," said Francis. "I'm just taking the process day by day and game by game and just going out there and working my hardest to try and produce the best I can."
While Francis is looking forward to the NHL draft in June, he knows there is a lot of hockey to be played before that.
The Eagles are off to a good start to the season and expectations in Sydney, N.S., are high for the team to make a long run in the playoffs and maybe win a QMJHL title. That has never happened since the Eagles came to Cape Breton in 1997.
Francis is currently playing with two skilled players who are massive. Russian Egor Sokolov is 6-4 and 230 pounds, and Shawn Boudrias is 6-5 and 220 pounds.
"We've been playing pretty well and work well together," said Francis, who graduated high school in June and is taking two courses at Cape Breton University. "Those guys are strong, smart and are really easy to play with."
Francis spent just one season playing midget hockey with the Cole Harbour Wolfpack before jumping to the junior ranks.
He said he learned a lot in his first season in Cape Breton from some of the team's veteran players including Drake Batherson, who has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Ottawa Senators.
Another player to watch is Francis's younger brother Devon.
The 14-year-old is tied for the league lead in the Nova Scotia Major Bantam Hockey League with 14 points in only six games.