Hockey fans here know Kane Lafranchise's game well because his tenure in town has spanned six seasons -- the last three for the ECHL's Alaska Aces, following three seasons at UAA.
Locals are also familiar with him because he rocks -- literally -- a top-shelf name: Kane Roch Lafranchise -- (Roch is pronounced "Rock'') -- in 2012 won The Hockey News' "Name of the Year'' tournament.
Most important than that longevity and name recognition, though, is that fans know Lafranchise's skills so well because he plays so much. As a top-pairing defenseman used in all situations, Lafranchise logs heavy ice time.
Expect that to continue after the Aces on Thursday announced Lafranchise, 25, has signed to skate a fourth season for the only ECHL club he has ever known.
The return of Lafranchise marks the Aces' third announced signing this offseason. Previously revealed were veteran defenseman Sean Curry and winger Jordan Kremyr, both returners.
In Lafranchise, the Aces regain a cornerstone blueliner who mans the left point on the power play -- from where he loves to sneak down the weak side in the left circle -- warrants penalty-killing duties and is often first over the boards in 4-on-4 situations, particularly in overtime.
Lafranchise in 52 regular-season games for the Aces last season delivered 5-28--33 totals, topped team blueliners in assists and points, and finished tied for 15th in league scoring among defensemen. The 6-foot-1, 199-pounder, who shoots left, added six assists in 11 playoff games. In 143 regular-season games for the Aces, Lafranchise has earned a plus-43 rating.
"At this level, you're always rebuilding, and you hope you get your nucleus back to build around,'' said Aces coach Rob Murray. "Without that, you're struggling to put a team together, so I'm glad to have him back.''
Last season was also one in which Lafranchise earned his first promotions to the American Hockey League. He played nine games for the Oklahoma City Barons and one for the Houston Aeros.
Given his first taste of the AHL, and his ascension as an elite defenseman in the ECHL, Lafranchise is naturally a risk to again earn be summoned to the AHL in the upcoming season.
"He's getting noticed and, hopefully, the trajectory of his career is still going up,'' Murray said. "With guys like him, there's always the chance you'll lose them for periods of time. Hopefully, he'll end up with us when it really matters -- the playoffs.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY