Franklin of Kamloops Blazers among WHL leaders in goal scoring

Friday night at Sandman Centre is Military Appreciation Night.

Zane Franklin was promised opportunity.

Kamloops Blazers’ general manager Matt Bardsley kept his word and the bond is paying dividends.

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When Bardsley acquired Franklin from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for 18-year-old Jackson Shepard in a summer swap, he expected the new addition to progress statistically, but couldn’t have predicted 1.13 points per game.

The 19-year-old forward from Marwayne, Alta., is tied for fourth in the WHL with 12 goals in 15 games. He had 14 goals in 67 games last season.

There is no secret to the jump in production, said Franklin, whose five assists leave him with a team-leading 17 points.

He feels a little older, a bit stronger and a touch faster.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound forward started well, scoring in his first two games for Kamloops, both wins over Kelowna.

Early success helped inspire confidence in himself and made it easy for head coach Serge Lajoie to reward Franklin with a top-six role and power-play time.

Five of Franklin’s markers are power-play goals. He has scored once shorthanded.

Franklin is also shooting more. He leads the Blazers with 47 shots on goal this season and is averaging 3.13 shots on goal per game. He averaged 1.34 shots on goal per game in 2017-2018.

Lethbridge nabbed Franklin 43rd overall in Round 2 of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.

Franklin left the Canes, who reached the Eastern Conference final in 2017 and 2018, to join a struggling franchise that missed the playoffs and overhauled management and coaching staffs.

He didn’t drink from the half-glass-empty mug, in part because he was sipping on Bardsley’s Kool-Aid. Franklin trusted the GM’s assurance of an important role up front.

Bardsley saw a player who nearly tripled his offensive output from 2016-2017 (14 points) to 2017-2018 (38 points) and made a deal to strengthen the Blazers’ weak 19-year-old age group.

Lethbridge wanted Shepard and Bardsley obliged, parting with a promising player while believing in Franklin’s ability to contribute immediately.

Shepard, a year younger than Franklin, has 10 points, all assists, in 16 games with the Hurricanes this season.

The deal may end up being beneficial to both sides, but the Blazers are happy to have the goals, for now.

Kamloops is seventh-last in the WHL in goals for, with 50 after 15 games. Prince Albert leads the league with 85 goals in 17 games.

Franklin and the Blazers have won four of their last six contests, but are looking to buck a two-game losing skid this weekend.

The U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips (11-6) and Kamloops (6-7-1-1) will square off twice at Sandman Centre.

Game time is 7 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Military Night

Friday night at Sandman Centre is Military Appreciation Night.

The Blazers are auctioning off camouflage jerseys that will be worn by the home team against the Tips on Friday and Sunday.

To bid, go online to 32auctions.com/kb-militaryjerseys2018.

Net proceeds will go to the Royal Canadian Poppy Trust Funds.

There will be about 750 active military, veterans and family members attending the Friday game as part of the Blazers’ Community Commitment Program, sponsored by Argo Road Maintenance, Arrow Transport, Inland Glass and Aluminum, the Kelson Group, Family Glass and Denny’s.

There will be a ceremonial puck-drop, rappellers descending from the rafters and a colour party during the anthem. The 419 squadron will attend, along with trumpet player Jerome Lidster, who will play the national anthem and The Last Post.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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