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Flames' Monahan takes strong start in stride

Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 2:56 PM
Steve Hunt  - NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- Through the first nine games of his NHL career, Calgary Flames rookie center Sean Monahan has been a point-per-game player.

However, the talented 19-year-old who was the sixth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is taking all of his early success in stride, even one day after the Flames announced he would remain in Calgary for the rest of the season.

"Yeah, it's been good. Some of the older guys on the team talk to me a lot and I think that really helped with me knowing what to expect going into the game," Monahan said. "It's been going well. I've been working hard and trying to stay focused on doing my job."

Monahan, who has six goals and three assists in his first nine NHL games, is skating on a line alongside two savvy veterans in Jiri Hudler and Michael Cammalleri, something he feels has already benefited him greatly. Flames left wing Curtis Glencross has yet to skate on the same line as his rookie teammate, but he's still quite impressed with what Monahan has brought to the table thus far.

"A 19-year-old kid with the poise he's got and vision of the ice, it's something that's hard to teach," Glencross said. "He's such a good player. He's a good, modest player. You can't say enough about the kid. Every aspect about him: the big body, he's not afraid to get in the dirty areas, he's got a great shot and he's a package."

While Monahan's early offensive numbers clearly speak volumes about where his strengths truly lie, an underrated aspect of his game has been the center's strong two-way play.

"I try to play a two-way game and be a responsible player on both ends," Monahan said. "Obviously it's something I need to get better at and continue to grow, but I think it's something I take a lot of pride in."

Glencross has not only noticed Monahan's solid two-way game. He also raves about the 19-year-old's burning desire to continue improving his defense.

"He's been pretty sound [defensively] for us," Glencross said. "It's something we're always learning, but for the most part he's put a lot of time in whether it's been video or extra practice with the coaches working on D zone. I think he's done a great job."

Calgary coach Bob Hartley also sees plenty to like in Monahan's game and specifically cited his poise, maturity and game sense as some of his greatest assets. But the veteran coach then took the compliments one step further, comparing the young phenom to a former All-Star who once played for the team the Flames play Thursday night, the Dallas Stars.

"Well, it's all about his poise and maturity. Dallas had a player kind of in the same mold in Loui Eriksson. It seems that [Monahan] has a knack to find those loose pucks. Some people might call this luck. I call this hockey sense," Hartley said. "He knows where to position himself. He's always in the right spot. It seems that he can always also create some open areas for him and that's very important. I think that he's been a force for this team. It's not that we're surprised or here's a young kid on the rise. Every second of ice time that he's had, he's deserved it."

Monahan isn't paying much attention to the praise being heaped on him. He doesn't have much time to. His dedication to working hard in practice, performing well in games and remaining in the NHL has left him little time to get caught up in all the hoopla of the strong start he's had.

And while many rookies talk about that moment when they knew they finally achieved their goal of playing in the League, he admits that moment has yet to arrive. But that's not exactly a bad thing.

"I don't think it has really hit me yet. I'm just working hard right now and trying to make this team. So getting that news yesterday [that he would be staying with the team] was exciting for me and it really hasn't hit me yet. Right now, I'm just trying to do my job and play my part and help this team win games," Monahan said. "I think it's more hard work than anything hitting me like that."

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