Newcomers look to make Royal impact
Jordan Fransoo, Dakota Conroy to make debut Friday in Regina
By Cleve Dheensaw, Times Colonist
January 11, 2012
The two main players in the blockbuster Western Hockey League deal that sent Victoria Royals leading scorer Kevin Sundher to the Brandon Wheat Kings couldn't be more starkly different in background.
Sundher was born and raised in Surrey and has never played for a non-West Coast team, quipping in his exit interview about maybe now needing to find "a farmer's hat and farmer's clothes."
A player coming the other way in the deal could help the fast-skating Buffalo Sabres prospect out with that. Defenceman and seventh-round Ottawa Senators draft pick Jordan Fransoo is a country music fan raised on a family farm near North Battleford, Sask., where he also works summers. He has never been to the Island and knows not a soul on the Royals' roster, which is comprised mostly of players from B.C. and Alberta.
That will soon change.
"I'm looking on this as a great opportunity for me to move to a team that is building," said Fransoo, by phone, and in-between packing up in Brandon to meet his new Royals teammates in Regina before Friday's game against the Pats.
"[Victoria head coach and GM Marc Habscheid] said I would step right in and play and would be a big part of the building process out there."
Fransoo will be a welcome addition to a creaky Victoria blue-line, which has leaked a league-high 212 goals.
"I skate well, like to pass and have a good shot, but Brandon used me mostly as a shutdown guy," said the 18-year-old, who has two goals and 11 points in 41 games this season for the Wheat Kings.
The other roster player coming to Victoria in the deal, which also included Brandon's first-round pick in this year's bantam draft, is six-foot-one WHL rookie forward Dakota Conroy.
"This is a great opportunity because Victoria has so many younger players like me, and over the next couple of years it could be a great team," said Conroy, who was also packing his suitcase and heading to Regina to meet his new Royals teammates.
"[Habscheid] said it's the responsibility of the young guys to continue to develop so the team can develop into a contender," added the 17year-old, who had four goals and eight points in 37 games for the Wheat Kings.
"It's good to be part of a future like that."
Unlike Fransoo, the Alberta-raised Conroy already has a good friend on the Royals in energy forward Brandon Magee. The pair came up together playing at the Southside Athletic Club in Edmonton, where Conroy had 19 goals and 45 points in his final season of triple-A Midget.
In Brandon, it was Wheat Kings and Canadian junior team sniper Mark Stone that Conroy most studied and analyzed during the first part of his rookie WHL campaign.
"I learned a lot by watching veteran players like Mark," noted Conroy, also an able golfer.
Sundher is expected in the lineup tonight when the Wheat Kings host the Saskatoon Blades. But that's not the biggest game of the week for him.
In what promises to be a emotion-laden game for Sundher, Fransoo and Conroy, the Royals play the Wheat Kings on Saturday in Brandon after Victoria opens its 14-day, six-game road trip through the Prairies on Friday in Regina.
"It's going to be weird having to hit all my old friends on the Wheat Kings," admitted Conroy. "But you have to do it. Trades are a part of hockey."
ICE CHIPS: Conroy will have a built-in vacancy waiting for him, at least for his first two games with Victoria in Regina and Brandon. The Royals will be missing forward Zane Jones for those games. The six-foot-three, 205-pounder was assessed a two-game suspension by the WHL for his boarding major and game misconduct in a game Saturday against Kelowna at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
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