The Calgary Flames knew they would be rebuilding this season and that meant ample opportunity for the youth. Center Sean Monahan leads that pack of rookies.
The Calgary Flames knew they would be rebuilding this season and that meant ample opportunity for the youth. In fact, one of the latest youngsters to sign with the team was slated to make his NHL debut against Toronto. And while it's fun to say “Bryce Van Brabant,” the marquee name among the Calgary rookies has been Sean Monahan, ever since he jumped straight from the 2013 draft to the Flames lineup.
Monahan recently became the first rookie Calgary forward to collect 20 goals in a season since Jarome Iginla and the first freshman since Dion Phaneuf. Needless to say, he has turned some heads with the franchise.
“The first thing that comes to mind is his ability to finish,” said veteran Mike Cammalleri. “He's one of those guys who has that knack for the net and can put it in different ways, which is something I think can carry a long way.”
A late 1994 birthday, Monahan turned 19 in October, so he was slightly older than the average straight-from-the-draft phenom, but his poise both on and off the ice is still impressive.
“He's a guy who everyone enjoys having around,” Cammalleri said. “He's definitely mature and calm beyond his years for a 19-year-old.”
Funny that just last season, Monahan was playing on a bottom-feeding Ottawa 67's team in the Ontario League. At one point, he was given a 10-game suspension for a hit to the head, but the timing actually worked out: The NHL was still locking out its players, so the teen got to skate in the Toronto area with notable names such as P.K. Subban and Tomas Kaberle. The fact his job is now to get around Subban doesn't cross up the kid at all.
“It's a lot different when you come onto the ice for a game,” Monahan said. “You look at everybody as one and treat them the same.”
Even though Monahan is the most prominent Flames rookie, he's far from the only one, as a laundry list of prospects have made their debuts this season. Van Brabant, for example, will be No. 10. But having strength in numbers has been a positive for the big pivot, who has bonded with rookies and other young Flames alike.
“It's cool,” he said. “You get to go through the same things together and we talk a lot, especially guys like Lance Bouma and Joe Colborne; we're good buddies. It's been a great experience and it's going to be a great future.”
If the master plan works out, it certainly will be. Calgary made three selections in the first round last year, with offensively-gifted forwards Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk (who is slated to make his pro debut in the American League Friday) joining the former 67's star. With another high pick coming up this summer and coach Bob Hartley getting maximum effort from his troops this season, the basement has been a bit more comfy for Calgary fans than their rivals in Edmonton. For Cammalleri, it's cool to witness progress in action.
“There's that rewarding part of seeing the things we're working on develop into results,” he said. “That's what has happened since the trade deadline. Our record has been pretty decent and we've been able to create some things we like and that's a good feeling.”