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Monahan’s rookie campaign far from boring

Tuesday, 22.04.2014 / 9:00 AM / News
By Aaron Vickers  - CalgaryFlames.com (@aavickers)
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Monahan\u2019s rookie campaign far from boring
Sean Monahan\'s rookie season with the Calgary Flames was anything but boring

I don't know if I (exceeded expectations). It was a good season. I think I learned a lot and that's really going to help me -- playing as a young player.Sean Monahan

CALGARY, AB -- Sean Monahan boring? Anything but, according to the rookie campaign he penned.

Monahan, Calgary’s top pick in the 2013 NHL Draft just nine months ago, put together a freshman season unmatched by any first-year Calgary Flames skater in the better part of two decades.

Not that one would know it from talking to him, though.

“I don't know if I (exceeded expectations),” said Monahan, whose season continues as a representative of Team Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Championship next month in Belarus. “It was a good season. I think I learned a lot and that's really going to help me -- playing as a young player. I'm really looking forward to next year.”

But before looking to next year, though, Monahan’s numbers quickly puts his 2013-14 season in perspective.

Monahan, who started the season as a fresh-faced, wide-eyed 18-year-old, scored 22 goals and added 12 assists in 78 games. He’s the first member of the Flames to surpass the 20-goal plateau since Jarome Iginla finished with 21 in 1996-97.

“If you had to, coming into this season, project out and see the season this way for him, he’d be really happy,” forward Mike Cammalleri said. “The thing that jumps out at you the most about the game is his ability to finish around the net. I think in a league where goal scoring is such a commodity and hard to produce goals and scoring chances, to have a guy who has that feel around the net and can convert at the rates he can.

“You hear the whole ‘can’t teach that’ thing ... he has that touch and that feel.”

At just 19, too, not that one would know it from watching him, though.

"He doesn’t play like a teenager, I’ll tell you that much,” said Joe Colborne, Monahan’s winger for much of the season. “We definitely found a special guy there. He’s mature beyond his years, both on and off the ice. I can’t say enough about what he’s done for this team, this city, the organization.

“He could be here for another 20 years."

At least, that’s what president of hockey operations and interim general manager Brian Burke is hoping.

Burke, who has a penchant for sending junior-aged players back to the Canadian Hockey League when given the option, expects Monahan to be a key cog in the Flames for years to come.

“His future is so, so bright,” Burke said. “I believe in sending guys back to junior, I’ve always sent them back. I sent Bobby Ryan back I sent Nazim Kadri back. This kid played his way onto the team. I thought he had a magnificent rookie season and he did it with a level head, a good work ethic. This kid is a special kid -- and I don’t use that word very often.

“His parents did a good job with this kid. It’s not just that he’s a good hockey player, this is a great young man.”

That’s what jumped out at forward Mikael Backlund before training camp began last September.

It didn’t take Backlund, not far removed from his own rookie experience at age 24, to see the same maturity as Burke.

“He’s very mature for his age,” Backlund said of the former Ottawa 67’s captain. “Right away when I met him I could feel that he was very mature for his age. He had a good camp and he wasn’t shy or anything like some of the guys -- I was when I first got here, a little too shy at first and maybe that’s why it took me a little longer to make the team than him.

“He [came] here and he took a role right away and wanted to make the team and wasn’t sitting back and watching other guys, he took charge right away.”

Not that one would necessarily know it from listening to him talk to the media, though.

"He opens up a little bit behind closed doors,” Colborne said. “He’s just got that monotone and that’s never varying. Hopefully, as he gets more comfortable in the league he’ll start opening up to [media] a little bit more. He’s an awesome guy in the room. It’s not easy to gain the respect of all the veterans as a teenager.

“He’s been able to do that."

He’s also been able to heighten expectations for next season. A 22-goal rookie season has more than a few wondering what his encore will be as a 20-year-old.

And one can bet it'll be far from boring.