It’s a story that sounds like it could have been written for a movie, but Cody Franson’s climb though the professional ranks of hockey is not a screenplay. A young boy from Sicamous, British Columbia, serves as a water boy for his father’s senior AA team, traveling on the bus and learning the ways of the game.
Hailing from the small town of only 3,100 residents, there was plenty of open ice at the local rink. With his dad working as a rink attendant, Cody was able spend plenty of extra time sharpening skills that may soon prove to be his ticket into the NHL.
Winning a championship in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants and a gold medal with the Canadian National Junior Team in 2006, Franson has been no stranger to success. As a Milwaukee Admiral, Franson has been one of the biggest assets as a defenseman on both the offensive and defensive sides of the rink. The 6’5”, 219 lb, 20 year old said that it’s always been his drive to play hockey at the highest level possible.
“Growing up around the sport, playing hockey was always something that really interested me. I loved playing, and when I wasn’t on the ice, I was playing road hockey with my friends,” said Franson.” “I was half decent when I was younger and I always wondered if I could make it [professionally]. As I got older and teams kept looking at me, it started becoming a bit of a reality for me.”
That reality came one step closer on June 25, 2005 when he was the 79th pick in the 2005 NHL entry draft. With the NHL lockout ongoing, only the top 20 players were invited to attend the draft in person. Watching from home, Cody says having his name called was one of the best moments of his life. “We were sitting at home and my dad had a whole bunch of his friends over. We had 50 people at our house at 8:30 in the morning and they didn’t leave until 6:00 the next morning. We were all sitting on the couch with nothing happening. Then one of my dad’s friends called and said, ‘Hey, congratulations. Just keep watching the bottom of TSN’. Just before my name came though, Nashville called. My whole house went nuts.”
Franson isn’t the first player from Sycamous to have his named announced by the Nashville Predators. Current Predator Shea Weber
was the 49th pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Weber has been a sounding board to Cody for advice on making his own way up though the leagues. “When I was going through juniors, he was a guy that I always phoned just to see how I was doing and how to work things out because he went though the same things I did. He’s been to the cup (WHL) and the World Juniors. He’s given me help through things when I’ve had a tough time.”
The reality of playing at hockey’s most competitive level is getting closer and closer for Franson. He was recently ranked by The Hockey News as Nashville’s best prospect and number #20 overall. He was voted to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team; the only player from the Western Conference to make the list. He is the first Admiral to be nominated to the team since Timofei Shishkanov got the honor in the 2003-2004 season. Franson takes pride in being named to the team. “It was awesome,” he said. “The team went into the locker room after practice and the coaches let everyone know. I wasn’t expecting it, and it’s an honor to be on that list with some of the guys before me.”
The burden of being touted as a future NHL player has been something Cody has had to take in stride. “It’s not really pressure to me,” he said. “It’s pushed me a little harder. You see that scouts and coaches are interested in you and you really want to move up to that next level so badly with your foot already in the door. With the thought that I could always make it, it’s always pushed me that little extra bit.”
The accolades for Franson have been reflected in his output on the ice. In 73 games with the Admirals this season Cody has posted 11 goals, 25 assists and has been a staple on the power-play. He currently leads AHL rookie defensemen in goals, assists, and points. In his two seasons with the Vancouver Giants, he notched two seasons in which he scored over 50 points. Even though numbers on the stat sheet are nice, Franson continues to work on all aspects of his game.
“It’s been a good season for me,” he notes. “I take a lot of pride in making outlet passes and trying to send the offense on breaks. My defensive game has come a long ways too. I’ve tried to focus on being more physical and I’ve made little improvements in all of the areas that I wanted to at the beginning of the year. In terms of my skating, defensive zone play, and being more physical, I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I can only take it one step at a time.”
Franson has been making those steps undauntedly as he nears closer to the National Hockey League. “I want to play in the NHL. That’s been my ultimate goal from day one. I wanted to win in the World Juniors and make the Memorial Cup and I did those things. Ultimately, it’s always been about the NHL.”