CALGARY, AB -- Fifty-four goals. Ninety-eight points. One hundred and fifty-eight skates.
Twenty-one years old. Today.
And it’s been an incredible start to a National Hockey League career for Calgary Flames centre Sean Monahan.
“It feels like yesterday, to be honest,” said Monahan, fresh from an off-day practice and free -- at least up until that point -- of any birthday shenanigans from teammates. “I came in and was pretty nervous and anxious to get things going. It’s tough coming in as an 18-year-old. You’re a kid, and there’s lots of grown men and veterans in the dressing room. It’s been a lot of change but it’s been good and I’ve learned a lot.”
It might be understating things.
In his rookie season in Calgary, Monahan recorded 22 goals -- the highest total from a Flames freshman since Jarome Iginla’s 21 in 1996-97 -- and 34 points. The effort, a ninth-place finish in Calder Trophy voting, set big expectations for his sophomore season.
The Brampton, ON. native didn’t disappoint in putting up a 31-goal, 62-point campaign that improved his minus-20 rating in 2013-14 to plus-8 last year.
The offensive output put Monahan in some elite company.
Over the past 20 NHL seasons there have been just 10 players to record at least 30 goals and 30 assists in the same season before their age-21 season. Among them are Crosby (twice), Marian Gaborik (twice), Stamkos (twice), Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Malkin, Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Jeff Skinner.
Monahan, who quietly finished fifth in Lady Byng voting last spring, is the latest addition to the group.
It's a dramatic increase, but not completely unsurprising to his coach.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bob Hartley said. “He’s approaching 35, I think. He’s approaching 35 with 21-year-old legs. He’s a treat to coach. You teach him once and it’s in the computer, it’s in the books. He’s probably one of the smartest young players that I’ve ever coached. He understands the game, has a feel for the game. He’s coming up with the big goals.”
It’s come quickly.
“I think I get a lot of opportunity to get a lot of ice,” Monahan said. “When you do that you’ve got to perform. I play with some great players. It makes it easy on me. I think that’s what helps me out. I don’t feel an age, but I feel more confident and more mature now. I feel better just being around the dressing room and taking on new roles, coming with being here and that experience.”
One of those new roles comes both on and off the ice as part of Calgary’s leadership core.
As a 20-year-old just last week, an ‘A’ was stitched to Monahan’s jersey.
“Last year we noticed that, Bob and I,” assistant coach Martin Gelinas said. “I told Bob I heard him scream ‘Lets go guys’. He took that step last year. It’s always hard at 18 and 19 to take that step. You don’t want to overstep your boundary. When you start talking you need to back it up, you need to be accountable for your words. He’s doing all that right now. He’s growing in his role on the ice, but off the ice as well as a leader.
“I remember just kind of meeting him. You think you’re going to get a good kid, you just don’t know how good. His progression has been phenomenal at 18 and getting a chance to play here and play a major role was a key development. I just remember him as a quiet kid, didn’t say too much but listened. He’s like a sponge. He takes everything in.”
From draft pick, to rookie, to a leader in every sense in just over 730 days.
“There’s not too many guys that come out of junior and they’re sure-shots, NHLers,” Hartley said. “You can have a junior kid playing on the fourth line and playing on the wing and playing six, seven minutes a game. This guy played at centre. I can’t remember playing him a shift on the wing. For me, that’s a true testament of his hockey sense, how he understands the game.”
And understands that, while potting 54 goals -- tops amongst the 2013 NHL Draft class -- and 98 points through two seasons and two games, the game is about more.
It’s told in his greatest accomplishment to date, a team accomplishment.
He’s wise, no doubt, beyond his 21 years.
“I think last year, just getting to the playoffs,” Monahan said. “That was our goal and I tried to be a big part of that. That was a huge accomplishment. People are always talking about goals and points and getting to the 30-goal mark was pretty cool to have that done last year, but that doesn’t mean too much to me.”