He may be from Valdemarsvik, Sweden, but Rangers Nation is proud to call Gustaf Franzen one of their own.
The 19-year-old centre is in his second season with the Kitchener Rangers, but the qualities he brings to the organization make it seem like he’s always belonged.
In a way, it’s reflected in his play on the ice. He matched and eclipsed his point total from his rookie season on January 23rd on the road against the Owen Sound Attack – in 22 fewer games – and has been a not-so-secret weapon for Mike Van Ryn and the rest of the Rangers coaching staff to use in varying situations and throughout the line-up from the onset of the campaign.
He is heavily relied upon when it comes to special teams, especially on the penalty kill where his faceoff potency, on which he spends countless hours practicing, certainly pays dividends. Franzen is among the top-15 in the OHL in faceoff wins with 489 and boasts a 53% win percentage.
Winning that draw over to the winger or back to the defenceman is ever-so-important, but when the Rangers found themselves short on the back end recently versus the Sting in Sarnia last Wednesday, it was Franzen himself who answered the call and filled in, in an effort to do whatever the club needed him to do.
“Whether it’s winning draws or helping out defensively, I’m happy to do it,” Franzen said post-game, “as long as I can contribute to helping the team pick up points.”
Of course the Rangers are no strangers to housing Swedish talent, as former captain Gabriel Landeskog is not only someone Franzen looks up to, but someone he developed a great relationship with, as well.
Franzen says there are some similarities between Kitchener and his hometown, but some stark differences also.
“Where I come from, I don’t think you can call it a city, really,” he said. “There are maybe 5,000 people living there. It’s really small.
“We only have one hockey rink. Growing up, there were just ten guys in my age group who played hockey, that’s it. So I would play with guys a year, two years and three years older than me, sometimes even older. But it really helped me develop.”
He persistently grows into a more well-rounded, dynamic player as the months pass by, but he continues to develop into an even greater young man.
When it comes to Rangers events in the community, as well as school visits playing floor hockey or reading to kids (all after having learned English as a second language), he is always among the first on the team to volunteer his time.
“One of our school visits, I went with [Jake] Henderson earlier this year. We played floor hockey with some young students and it was just a blast. We had a great time with them.
“As Rangers we are asked to be active members of our community, but to me it’s not a chore, I love it. A lot of the guys do. It’s great to give back to this wonderful community that gives so much to us.”
From volunteering for community events, to standing up alone at the Rangers holiday party and singing a seasonal Swedish song at the front of the room for his teammates, their families and billets, he’s just a guy who everyone enjoys being around. As well, he’s a role model and a guy who you just can’t help but root for and want good things to happen to. And in true Franzen fashion, when everyone roots for him, he’s right there rooting for them, too.