Even though this is our first instalment of the Top 25 Under 25 series, I feel pretty confident in saying that doing rankings during the middle of the season can be a tough task.
Already during this countdown, we've had one member of the team be traded out of the organization, and no fewer than eight of our Top 25 have moved from one level to another. We've also had about 20 additional games worth of information about these guys to process. So while the rankings reflect how we felt back at the start of December. Nearly two months later, things might have changed quite a bit.
So with that in mind, maybe it isn't entirely a surprise to see Cody Franson ranked at #7. Franson had some difficulties settling into his new home in Toronto. With an overcrowded right side, Franson was forced into starting his Leaf career playing on the left side. But after a period of early struggles, and being outplayed by rookie Jake Gardiner, Franson found himself the odd man out, making matters worse by creating a minor media controversy about his (lack) of playing time, and earning no favours from Leaf fans becoming used to the idea that all players have to earn their spot in the lineup.
But Franson has been one of the biggest benefactors of Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles injuries, and uneven play from Luke Schenn. Franson has established his position in the line-up, and could force the Leafs into a difficult decision on how to allocate ice time when Liles returns from a concussion.
Let's quickly talk about what Franson brings to the table.
Cody Franson is a power play specialist. He gets more shots toward the net than just about anyone, he's got an uncanny knack for keeping pucks from passing over the blueline and he can bring the puck up ice with the best of them. That being said, that's about the extent of his value.. He rarely played against top competition and while his positioning is solid, his skating leaves him vulnerable. If he's the last one back and someone gets a step on him, you'd have better luck if he headed to the bench for a change than have him try and get back in time. Put simply, he doesn't possess a lot of speed. Okay, he possess no speed. Hence why he's a power play specialist. On the man advantage, his solid positioning is enough. With only having to worry about a small area of ice, Franson it is at his best. All of his strengths glow like a beacon of light. Unfortunately, when he's responsible for the entire sheet of ice, things can get ugly.Don't get me wrong, (Franson) is a solid defenseman. He'll be fine on most nights and in most situations. But, instead of consistency across the board, you get rollercoaster highs and lows with him.
As with my other picks, NHL playing time is the single largest factor in determining ranking. Maybe this is taking the easy way out, since, in a sense, ranking players this way makes Brian Burke and Ron Wilson do the ranking for me. Have the coach and GM given him time in the bigs? Move him on up the depth chart.
Now, Cody Franson has had to fight for a roster spot all year, but he's come back from a poor showing in the first half of the season to actually fit in quite nicely. His Corsi On and Corsi Rel numbers are among the best on the team, even if he is a little sheltered with a 53.5% OZ starts.