In his time with the Maple Leafs, Cody Franson’s developed from a healthy scratch in his first year to a reliable top-pairing defenceman.
As a 19 year old, Franson got the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Franson posted up two assists in six games in limited time, which ranked third among the team’s defencemen in scoring. Nothing too flashy, but he did manage an assist on what would be the most crucial goal of the tournament: (apologies for awful quality)
Canada beat the USA in the semfinals in one of the most memorable shootouts you’ll ever see, before defeating Russia 4-2 in the final. Franson didn’t shoot, but Jonathan Toews went 3/3 in the Canadian victory.
In Franson’s own words, here are his best memories from the tournament.
Carey Price, Jonathan Toews, Kris Letang, James Neal, Sam Gagner, Karl Alzner, Brad Marchand, Bryan Little, Marc Staal, Steve Downie, Darren Helm, and Andrew Cogliano were all on the team.
Jeez. Perhaps not Canada’s best lineup ever at the world juniors, but still a solid team all around nonetheless. Carey Price won tournament MVP, while Kris Letang and Jonathan Toews both ended up on the all star team.
The scouts’ take:
Cody Franson’s entire career has seen an undervaluing of his skillset, with that trend seemingly extending to his junior career. Franson’s already on his fifth NHL contract, with general managers wary of locking him up long term. But his recent play with the Leafs has shown he’s worthy of a longer extension, as opposed to three consecutive one-year deals which he’s currently been left with.
Franson won a Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants in 2007 following the tournament, (alongside Milan Lucic and a young Evander Kane), and was nominated for the WHL’s top defenceman in his final season, but was taken in just the third round of the 2005 draft by the Predators. Nashville clearly never though much of Franson, trading him alongside Matthew Lombardi for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney. Slaney has never played in the NHL while Lebda played just 30 more games in the NHL, none with the Predators.
Currently on pace for the best season of his career, Franson didn’t crack an NHL lineup until age 22. But an ability to quarterback the powerplay plus a strong puck possesion game has put Franson’s name into the conversation as arguably the best defenseman on the team, and it’s reasonable to think his development could’ve been accelerated had he been called up to the NHL earlier. Not a bad career for a 3rd rounder who was essentially a throw-in in a Brett Lebda trade.