The Hockey Writers 2020 NHL Entry Draft Guide


Ryan Francis

2019-20 Team: Cape Breton Eagles

Date of Birth: Dec. 2, 2001

Place of Birth: Beaver Bank, NS

Ht: 5-foot-9 Wt: 168 lbs

Shoots: Right

Position: Centre/Right wing


NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible

Rankings

The prototypical, undersized speedster, Ryan Francis had a breakout season for the Cape Breton Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with 24 goals and 72 points in 61 games. After a sophomore slump that saw him net just 32 points — two less than his rookie year — Francis seemingly came out of nowhere to light up the “Q” in 2019-20, finishing 17th in league scoring and putting himself on the map as an early to mid-round pick for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

Cape Breton Eagles Ryan Francis
Ryan Francis had a breakout season for the Cape Breton Eagles, putting himself on the map for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. (Cape Breton Eagles)


Francis had been a right winger his entire career for the Eagles but made the move to centre when the opportunity presented itself at the start of the season. That switch allowed first-year head coach Jake Grimes to create a super line of sorts, with Francis flanked by mammoths in 6-foot-4 Egor Sokolov and 6-foot-5 Shawn Boudrias.

The trio found immediate chemistry and went on to lead the Eagles in scoring by a significant margin, combining for 105 goals — 40 percent of the team’s production — and 243 points. The success of his linemates does raise questions about whether Francis is a true offensive facilitator or more of a complementary player, which is a legitimate concern for some scouts and part of the reason for his middling ranking.

Related: THW’s 2020 Draft Guide

In terms of his skill set, Francis’ package is more or less what you’d expect to see from a modern, undersized forward: speed, excellent agility, quick hands, and good hockey sense. As you can tell from his stat line of 24 goals and 48 assists, Francis is primarily a playmaker, though he does possess a decent wrist shot. Along with his increased offensive output, he has also become a reliable player in his own zone, arguably becoming one of the best two-way forwards in the QMJHL, highlighted by his impressive plus-27 rating.

Ryan Francis Cape Breton Eagles
Francis is praised by scouts for his excellent two-way game. (Cape Breton Eagles)

Perhaps the highlight of Francis’ season came in January when he was named to Team White at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Although the diminuitive forward did not record a point, it became clear that his blistering start to the season had captured the attention of scouts around the league.

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Ryan Francis – NHL Draft Projection

Although Francis has the production of a first or second-round pick, there are still plenty of questions surrounding his size, ability to carry a line, and potential as a scorer at the pro level. Scouts may be skeptical of his breakout season considering the dominance of his linemates, though his impressive two-way play may make up for any questions about his offensive potential. Rankings on Francis vary from early third round to mid-fourth round given that he’s still considered a longshot to make the NHL. Where he’s selected will largely depend on what teams make of his size and ability to produce without elite linemates.

Quotables

“Ryan Francis has quietly been putting together a solid season with the Cape Breton. He is crafty forward who makes magic with the puck on his stick. He’s found ways to produce and he is demanding that he not be ignored.” – Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects

“Hard work and dedication have been instrumental in the consistent improvement in the overall game of undersized forward Ryan Francis. The Cape Breton Eagles’ star has produced this past season at a surprising rate, posting 72 points in 61 games. His best assets are his high-end vision and hockey IQ, which attribute to him being a superb playmaker. His skating is also above average, and he competes hard. Francis has been a steady riser on most draft boards throughout the season. He is likely to hear his name called in the third or fourth round but perhaps sooner if teams aren’t concerned with drafting a small centerman.” – Rick Warman, Overtime Heroics

Strengths

  • Skating speed and agility
  • Passing and vision
  • Stickhandling
  • Defensive responsibility

Improvements

  • Strength
  • Shot power

NHL Potential

According to some scouts, Francis is a longshot to make the NHL and may top out as an American Hockey League (AHL) scorer. His breakout season for the Eagles put his offensive potential on display, but he’ll have to prove that it wasn’t a one-off to keep his stock rising. He is likely a long-term project, but if everything clicks for him, he could develop into a reliable middle-six forward with some offensive upside.

Risk-Reward Analysis

Risk – 3/5, Reward – 3/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offence – 6/10, Defence – 7/10

Awards/Achievements

Francis was named to Team White of the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game this past January.

Interviews/Links

QMJHL: Ryan Francis/NHL Prospect

Ryan Francis with big start to season

Video