DALLAS, TX – Given his play in the early portion of the season, it doesn’t seem the least bit surprising that Calgary Flames rookie Sean Monahan will be sticking with the team past the nine-game mark.
There seemed to be consensus from the media and fans that the pivot wouldn’t be heading back his junior club, the Ottawa 67’s, even before the Flames embarked on their five-game road trip.
But outside opinions are just that. Until he heard general manager Jay Feaster telling him that he would be in the lineup on Thursday night in Dallas, Monahan kept his expectations tempered.
“I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously I was nervous going into this day,” he said after practice in Glendale. “I’m just really happy to be a part of this team and to try to help this team win games.”
“I think just getting that news, I was excited but right now, it still doesn’t feel real. I’m happy to be a part of this team.”
Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, no one was 100 per cent sure what to expect from the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Yes, Monahan had turned heads in development camp, the 2013 Young Stars Classic in Penticton and in the pre-season.
But none of those instances compare to the level of hockey play during the NHL regular season. It can be hard for players in their 20’s – with pro experience under their belts - to get accustomed to the pace, let alone a fresh-faced 18-year-old.
As it turned out, Monahan has blown all expectations out of the water.
He has been a key contributor since Day 1 and at the conclusion of his nine-game stint with the club, he is leading the Flames in goals scored with six and is averaging a point-per-game.
“I didn’t really have expectations,” he said of his first nine games of the year. “I just wanted to be my best and do my job every day.
“I think I learned a lot. I think you go up against some of the top guys in the league and they’re strong and they’re smart players. You have to adjust every game and know who you’re playing against every shift.”
Given he has been logging a lot of ice time in a variety of situations, Monahan has taken his fair share of face-offs this year and hasn’t been overly happy with the results thus far.
One of the first things he told Feaster and assistant general manager John Weisbrod on Wednesday morning is that he wants to make big strides in the face-off circle.
“You can see that some of the guys who have played a lot of games get more respect in the faceoff circle,” he mused. “You’ve got to compete hard and I think I’m going to get better at that and work at that.”
Monahan, who has been staying with Jiri Hudler and his family since the start of the season, will now be living with a billet family. That was a stipulation set out by the team after telling the centre he would be remaining with the team, ensuring his focus would be solely on hockey.
“I think it’s going to be good,” Monahan smiled. “I’ll do whatever they ask me to do. I think living with another family is going to be great for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
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