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FLAMES EXTRA - THE COMPLETE PACKAGE

Sure he's good at scoring goals - really, really good at scoring goals - but Monahan can do so much more now as a true No.-1 centre

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / calgaryflames.com

It isn't hard to pinpoint Sean Monahan's greatest strength.

Just check out his stat sheet.

He scores goals.

A lot of goals.

His ability to find the back of the net has been his calling card since minor hockey.

In fact, he averaged nearly a goal-a-game during his time with the Mississauga Rebels Minor Midget AAA club.

In 2009-10, he whipped off 46 goals and 90 points in 47 games and used that as a springboard for a successful rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League.

As a 16-year-old, Monahan scored 20 goals and 47 points in 65 games with the Ottawa 67's and showcased why the club nabbed him in the first round of the 2010 OHL Priority Selection draft.

Monahan would go on to play two more seasons with the 67's and capped off his junior career by captaining the club in the 2012-13 season.

In 185 regular-season games in the OHL, he would end up scoring 85 goals and 203 points and chipped in with 10 goals and 19 points in 22 playoff games.

With the sixth-overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Flames took the pivot and he has been piling up the points in Calgary silks ever since.

Monahan leads all Flames skaters in goals (124) and points (247) since the 2013-14 season.

And he isn't just leading his teammates - he's leading his peers across the league.

Monahan tops his draft class in goals, although he has played more games.

Still, the numbers are impressive.

His 124 tallies through his 348 regular-season games has him 39 goals ahead of second-place Nathan MacKinnon, who has potted 85 in his 327-game career.

Aleksander Barkov sits third with 83 goals in 280 games with Florida.

Both were selected ahead of Monahan in the draft, with Colorado taking MacKinnon with the first-overall pick and the Panthers nabbing Barkov second overall.

When it comes to points, Monahan once again leads his draft class. MacKinnon and Barkov trail him with 238 and 198, respectively.

"I've talked to some friends and my skating coach who they watched him in junior and they say he's always been this way around the net," Flames captain Mark Giordano said.

"Every year he comes in and scores 30 goals. This year he's on pace for a little higher but I just feel the confidence has just gone to the next level.

"I don't think there's many better with how quick he gets the puck off, how fast he releases it. Thing is, he's covered most of the time. If you watch most of his goals, guys are within a foot of him. He does little things, subtle things like lift the guy's stick right before the puck comes or give a guy a little push right before the puck comes and he gets that two feet.

"And that's all he needs.

"When you have two feet, you don't have time for a wind-up, so his shot is that good. Always seems to be high glove or high blocker.

"Mony's getting better and better at the 200-foot game. He has a lot of desire. Nice to see as an older guy a younger guy with that much drive."

At the moment, Monahan is on pace for 46 goals and 82 points this season. But his base stats are only a glance into Monahan's progression into one of the league's top young centres.

Dig a little deeper and you can see how much the forward has improved his possession game over the past five years. He's not a one-dimensional player, succeeding only in one facet of the game.

Yes, he still scores a lot of goals. But he has become a key cog for the Flames when it comes to driving the play.

As per the NHL's even-strength enhanced stats, Monahan has improved his even-strength shot attempt percentage, also known as Corsi-for percentage, by over 10% over the course of his career.

In the 2013-14 season, he held a 43.80 SAT percentage - 44th among all NHL rookies that year. Now, 30 games into the 2017-18 season, his five-on-five SAT percentage sits at 55.65%.

Like his possession numbers, his face-off win percentage has increased each season.

As a rookie in 2013-14, he won 45.94% of his 1,036 draws. From there, it has went as follows: 49.28%, 51%, 51.45%, and now, just over a third into the season, it rests at 51.64%.

"Offensively he's not any different. He's an elite scorer," Flames general manager Brad Treliving told CalgaryFlames.com.

"Where I think his game has grown, where Glen (Gulutzan) challenged him at the beginning of the year, was to be a true No. 1. That means doing certain things. One is playing, and producing, against top players. You hear it all the time, the 200-foot game.

"That goal (in Montreal) the other night is sort of indicative of what we're talking about, an offensive chance off a defensive play. Puck's in our end, it's almost a 50-50, but we defend on one end, score at the other.

"That exemplifies what we're preaching."

Taking on the challenge of playing a more reliable game in his own zone has enhanced every aspect of his game. He's learned how to get the puck out of his end efficiently, pushing the play in transition and into the offensive zone.

Once he and his linemates are in on the forecheck, they can exhaust defenders with a relentless cycle and Monahan can act as a set-up man or finisher thanks to his superb vision and ability to find open ice.

"He's taking on more responsibility in every other part of the game, and those parts are opening up his offence," said Treliving.

"He's taken on more heavy-lifting in the defensive area. He's really embraced that. Which is a step in the maturation process."

"The hardest thing to do? Produce. Which he's done. Now, it's transporting the puck up the ice, it's playing in all situations, not just trying to get the favourable match-up. He's going up against the big dogs. You see him killing penalties now. Winning key faceoffs.

"So he's embracing the other parts of the game that maybe aren't as sexy as scoring the goal. But they're critical to winning.

"When he takes on that responsibility for wins and losses, not just goals and assists, then you see the growth in his game."

Thirty games into the season, Monahan leads the Flames with 17 goals and is second only to Johnny Gaudreau with 30 points. His six game-winning goals not only leads the Flames but is tied for the NHL lead as well.

And even better than his offensive numbers, for Flames fans, are the numbers that show his production and play is only going to get better.

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