WHL Press Release
Portland, Oregon – Portland Winter Hawks General Manager Ken Hodge announced today that the club has signed top forward prospects Chris Francis from Las Vegas, Nevada and Tristan King from Elk River, Minnesota to contracts.
“We feel both of these players could be good contributors in their rookie seasons with us this fall,” Hodge said. “They both have a nice blend of speed, skill and competitiveness. They should be very fun to watch.”
“We think the added skill of both of these guys, especially with the rule changes, is going to help us a lot this year with the graduation of a lot of our forwards from last year’s team.”
Francis, 5’9, 160, will be a 17-year-old rookie for Portland in 2006-07. He got a taste of the Winter Hawks’ organization during the playoffs when he attended a couple of games in April.
“It was great. A lot of kids were asking me for autographs and I had to tell them that I was not even on the team yet.”
He also skated with the Hawks in practice while he was in town.
“The players were really good. I was the smallest kid on the ice, but I thought I did OK. I am built for hockey and it was not that easy for them to move me around.”
Francis was born in Las Vegas and started playing roller hockey at age 6. He played ice and roller hockey at age 8 and then started to concentrate on ice hockey when he was 15. Francis was rookie of the year on the Las Vegas AAA midget team two years ago. Last season, the team dropped down to AA because of graduation from the year before and finished third in nationals.
“We had a lot of team chemistry,” said Francis, who posted (89-96-185) in 71 games. “We played a lot of tournaments, traveled to California a lot to play teams there, and sometimes traveled to Utah.”
“I didn’t know much about the WHL until I came to Portland and met Matt Bardsley (Winter Hawks Western Scout) in the Silverstick Tournament in November,“ Francis said. “All I knew about Major Junior Hockey is what I had been told and that is that you lose your college eligibility. Well, that is not the whole story, for sure. Actually, the scholarships are more guaranteed in the Western Hockey League and your college is paid for while you are there.”
Francis is working out morning and night in the gym, five days a week, and skating every day to get ready for training camp. Both Francis and King will attend USA Select Camp in St. Cloud Minnesota later this summer.
“Josh Dye, our full time scout in Minnesota, brought Tristan to camp,” said Winter Hawks’ Director of Player Personnel Gord Loiselle. “This is the first year we have had a full time scout in Minnesota and Josh works for the Minnesota Wild. We know that this is an area that has a large number of very good hockey players and most of the past focus has been NCAA college hockey, but Josh is trying to make some inroads and get the message out about our league and the Winter Hawks.”
Loiselle added that Francis is a product of more awareness in the southwestern United States of the Western Hockey League and the Winter Hawks. The league recently ran a special camp in Anaheim, California and allowed every WHL team to add a player from that camp to its protected player list. The Hawks now have a full time scout in California, Derek Eisler, who, working with Loiselle and Bardsley, is helping to communicate the benefits of playing Major Junior Hockey, the number one supplier of talent to the National Hockey League, to southwestern US prospects.
“Tristan was one of the best players on the ice at our Prospects Camp last weekend in Calgary,” said Williamson. “He is a guy with a lot of skill and he seemed to mix well with the players at the camp. It is really exciting to be able to add a player like this that was not drafted in the WHL Bantam Draft and looks like he will be able to help us both next year as a 16-year-old and down the road.”
King, 5’11, 170, has seen a lot of the country as his father is in a profession that has resulted in several family moves. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, starting hockey when he was 3 years old and then moving to New York when he was 9. While there, Tristan’s team won the statewide Silverstick tournament, losing in the quarterfinals of the prestigious national tournament. His family moved three times just during the 2005-06 hockey season, starting out playing for a Bantam AAA rep team in Chicago, moving to Hamilton, Ontario to play Bantam with the AAA Midget Hamilton Bulldogs, and then back to Minnesota to finish out the year with the Elk River Bantams. King said he said none of his teams kept any individual statistics.
“The Winter Hawks’ camp in Calgary was a great experience,” King said. “It showed me what I need to work on to get to main camp and get ready for the season.”
“I knew a little about the WHL, but the only thing I knew about Portland is they have had a lot of good players that have gone on to the NHL. I knew the WHL is one of the three Major Junior leagues and I have always wanted to play Major Junior. So, this was really great for me to have a chance to go to camp and now sign. I have heard that the fans are great and Portland is a really good city to play in.”
In addition to the upcoming USA Selects Camp, King will be attending a hockey camp in Canada for two weeks and then training with his high school coach in Elk River to get ready for the Hawks’ training camp in late August. Elk River is about 40 minutes from Minneapolis and there are a lot of good facilities to train. The city is known for producing three NHL players – Dan Hinote (Colorado Avalanche), Joel Otto (Calgary Flames), who won the Stanley Cup in 1989, and Paul Martin, a rookie this year with the New Jersey Devils.