In two short years on Vancouver Island, Jordan Fransoo has seen the Victoria Royals grow from underdogs to contenders in the Western Hockey League.
The former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman was traded to the Royals — then in their first season in Victoria after moving from Chilliwack, B.C. — in the 2012 trade deadline deal that brought Kevin Sundher to the Wheat City. Since then, the Royals have steadily improved, finishing 17 games under .500 in 2011-12 before going five games over the .500 mark last season. That trend has continued this winter as the Royals have picked up momentum as the season has gone on, rising to third place in the overall standings with an impressive 42-16-1-3 record after Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the Wheat Kings.
"From the beginning of the year, we thought we were the guys chasing (the top teams) and that’s kinda how it’s been, and then after Christmas here, all of a sudden you go into rinks and teams are gunning for you. You’re not gunning for them," Fransoo, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound native of North Battleford, Sask., said following Wednesday’s morning skate at Westman Place. "So it’s a bit of a different role than we’re used to over the last couple of years, but I think guys have taken it in stride and done well."
The elder statesman on the Royals defence at 20, Fransoo took over as the team’s captain last spring when Tyler Stahl, who had been wearing the ‘C’ at the time, suffered a season-ending injury.
Fransoo was named the captain on a more permanent basis this season, and has produced four goals and nine assists, with 34 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of -2 in 43 games entering Wednesday. Never a big scorer, he’s stepped up recently, scoring all four of his goals since Jan. 11, including two goals and four assists in seven games this month. He’s notched a pair of game-winners, including an overtime tally in a 3-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans last week.
Chosen by Ottawa in the seventh round of the 2011 National Hockey League draft, Fransoo was not signed by the Senators, leaving him a free agent, and he hopes that a strong finish for the Royals will help open doors for him next season.
"Team success usually comes with personal success," he said. "So hopefully those things go hand in hand, and we do well and something comes available for me."
For now, though, Fransoo is simply enjoying the run Victoria is on and the last tour through the Prairies of his WHL career. The Royals played in Brandon less than a week after Fransoo was traded, but he hadn’t been back since, so he was thrilled that the team spent a little extra time here, arriving on Monday night and getting a day off on Tuesday leading up to last night’s game.
"It’s definitely exciting to be back where the junior career started," he said. "Lots of good memories, lots of good people here, so something I was really excited for all year long."
ONE-TIMERS: Wednesday’s game was also the first back in Brandon for former Wheat King LW Jack Palmer, an 18-year-old Victoria native who was traded to the Royals in November. Palmer went into last night with four goals and 11 points in 50 contests … Crocus Plains high school D Blake Jameson, a Brandonite who was chosen by Victoria in the fourth round of last year’s WHL bantam draft, skated with the Royals this week.