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M&G's Top 25 Under 25: #2 - Sean Monahan

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"I was number two on the list, it was nice of Matchsticks and Gasoline to write about me." - Boring Sean Monahan

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

At some point, maybe 10 or 15 years down the road, fans might be able to reflect on Sean Monahan being one of the best centres the organization has ever had. After all, when he came into the organization, the stench of era upon era if inefficient talent down the middle plagued the Flames. Despite the few bright marks here and there like Daymond Langkow or a few seasons of Craig Conroy, the team never had that guy who could become the elite top-flight centre.

It's not a stretch to consider he could be one of the best already, given the start to his NHL career. No rookie, in recent memory besides Sven Baertschi, had the levels of expectation on his shoulders more than Monahan. The 6'2, 187 lb., Brampton, Ontario native turned first-line centre in his sophomore season is everything you want in someone to build your franchise around.

Rank Player DOB Draft 2014-15 team Vote total
2 Sean Monahan 10/12/94 6th overall, 2013 Calgary Flames (NHL) 168

History

A former first-round pick of the Ottawa 67's, Monahan had a respectable OHL rookie campaign on a decent 67's squad. He was fortunate to join the U17 Canada Ontario roster where they captured gold over Team USA. Monahan was instrumental in the finale, scoring two goals to help lead the way. Building upon the relative success of his rookie year, Monahan elevated his play in his second full season. His strong play again was beneficial as the 67's progressed to the Conference Finals, falling to Niagara in five games.

In what would be his final year in the OHL, Monahan was given the captaincy of the 67's, but it wouldn't be a season of all positives. Early on in the season, Monahan delivered an illegal elbow to the head of Colin MacDonald which earned the future Flame a 10 game suspension. The 67's were not particularly great either, not destined for any playoffs or high scoring by any means. Despite that, Monahan was a PPG player, 38 points higher than the next forward.

The Flames loved what they saw obviously and selected him sixth overall, kicking off the rebuild in Calgary. In his rookie season with Calgary, Monahan was the definition of hot and cold, especially after starting the season with six goals in eight games. Add in the growing pains of trying to keep up at the NHL level as a rookie plus missing seven games due to a hairline fracture and it's a recipe for a rough season. Despite that, he did finish eighth in Calder voting.

His sophomore season was an incredible leap forward, in terms of skill and production. Monahan spent much of the season as the team's top line centre, all the while taking on a portion of then-injured centre Mikael Backlund's tough assignments. Again, he did show growing pains here and there with some poor decision making and limited defensive work, though he was overall improved. The strong play of the top line under the tutelage of Jiri Hudler helped Monahan score 31 goals, a feat not many had expected. By the end of the playoffs, visibly injured, Monahan had a below average series against Anaheim to close out his season.

Stats

Strengths and weaknesses

Monahan was praised by scouts in his draft year for being a gifted and skilled centre who could score: something that has translated quite well as he turned pro. It's only a small step forward hopefully, given the talent surrounding him that should give him the ability to grow much more. A cornerstone of that is his ability to find seams in play and then providing capable, if not impressive, passes to generate chances. Preliminary data from Ryan Stimson's passing project was promising on Monahan's passing results.

Monahan has improved from his rookie campaign, taking nearly double the volume of draws he took as a rookie. Coming in at 49.3% this past season was a step forward, but as more analysis is done on FO wins, it's likely that there is limited correlation of gains on the macro level as opposed to the micro level. With more emphasis being put on macro vs micro level analysis, it's important to take FO% with a grain of salt now.

Given that he was a sophomore and at times was thrust into roles that were often deemed questionable, primarily being used as a shutdown option during Backlund's absense, it's clear Monahan isn't strong enough to perform at that level just yet. That may come with age, but his defensive game still needs work. Though he was praised for this at the junior level, it may take some time to see it transition properly.

Along with that, there is a clear indication that he isn't the strongest shot attempt driver yet either. His linemates Gaudreau and Hudler were the real drivers of play, while Monahan hovered around passenger-levels at times. Again, like his two-way game, this may take more time to develop.

Future with the Flames

By all accounts, if things continue to go well for Monahan, his trajectory is in the top six. Despite some obvious shortcomings as a rookie, along with some trials in his sophomore season, he is rounding out to be a capable centre. Determining the offensive upside of what he can bring long term remains to be determined, as there should be discretion with regards to his on-ice shooting percentage.

He, along with rookie Sam Bennett, are the future at this point in their respective roles. With optimism and expectations reaching levels unseen since at least a decade ago, more eyes are on Monahan and his peers to make the next jump.

Expectations for 2015-16

Regardless of the offensive output from last season, finding a way to elevate his two-way game is the next step. He wasn't exactly a superb centre when it came to playing shutdown roles when called upon. It might be easy to call upon the likes of Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, or even Josh Jooris to shoulder that load, but there is some optimism he can improve upon that skill-set this coming season.

He is a capable goal scorer after all and playing with the likes of Gaudreau and Hudler will only help pad the vanilla stats. What matters is taking that leap, in all areas of his game, which will definitely make the Flames stronger down the middle. Given he had that foundation in junior, it's not out of the realm of possibility he finds that.

Earlier ont he list

#25Ryan Culkin // #24Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22Garnet Hathaway // #21Kenny Agostino// #20Mark Jankowski // #19Bill Arnold // #18Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 Mason McDonald // T-#14Brandon Hickey // T-#14 - Rasmus Andersson // #13Tyler Wotherspoon // #12 - Oliver Kylington // #11 - Morgan Klimchuk // #10 - Markus Granlund // #9 - Drew Shore // #8 - Joni Ortio // #7 - Micheal Ferland // #6 - Emile Poirier // #5 - Jon Gillies // #4 - Sam Bennett // #3 - Dougie Hamilton