Lafranchise earns his way up ladder with Sound Tigers
BRIDGEPORT — Defenseman Kane Lafranchise started in the ECHL with coach Brent Thompson about as far from here as you can get in North American pro hockey.
They briefly reunited in Bridgeport in 2015 training camp before Lafranchise went back to the ECHL. Lafranchise rose to the AHL later that year, stuck around, and earned a chance to take that last step in his career, getting an NHL contract with the New York Islanders this summer.
“It’s obviously huge. It’s something I’m not going to forget,” Lafranchise said. “It’s fun to look back from where I started to where I am now, all the hard work that got me here.
“I know there are expectations that come with it.”
He doesn’t have the “veteran” tag officially attached to his name, spending most of his first six pro seasons in the ECHL. But Lafranchise has become one of the experienced Sound Tigers defensemen.
“It’s the quality of his character. He’s such a first-class kid,” said Thompson, who coached Lafranchise with the Alaska Aces in 2010-11 a year before Thompson became Sound Tigers coach for the first time.
“It’s well deserved. He came in on tryouts, came in on an American League deal. He was a good soldier. He worked hard. To his credit, it’s all him.”
The Aces won the Kelly Cup in 2011, Lafranchise’s rookie year.
“That’s one reason we won in Alaska. We had character guys, both on and off the ice,” Thompson said. “He’s a leader. He has that leadership. He’s won a championship. ... That year, he was not a guy who played every game. He was a good soldier. He continued to get better.”
That includes this season, when Lafranchise said he feels he’s finally getting his game back to last year’s standard. He thought the beginning of his season wasn’t what he wanted it to be.
“I just think I was trying to think too much defensively,” Lafranchise, 29, said. “My game’s a simple game.”
Within that simple game, Thompson said the biggest growth he has seen in Lafranchise since they met is his aggressiveness.
“His maturity off the ice, he’s always been a level-headed kid,” Thompson said “On the ice, he’s more assertive with the puck and without it.
“He always could move. He had a pretty good stick. But he was passive.”
Thompson joined the Sound Tigers the next year, then spent two years with the Islanders before coming back here in 2014. Lafranchise played three more years for the Aces, getting a couple of AHL tryout looks and an extended run with Abbotsford in 2013-14.
He split the next year between Utica — where the Sound Tigers visit Friday night; the Comets repay the favor Saturday in their only Webster Bank Arena visit — and signed with the Sound Tigers in 2015, beginning his rise through the organization.
“Bridgeport has shown so much confidence in me, Tommer especially,” Lafranchise said. “It means a lot to me.”
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