I’m trying to lead by example, step up and take some ownership. I’ve been trying to get some people to follow. - Sean Monahan
TORONTO, ON -- On Sunday evening, after a two-goal performance in Montreal, Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley made note of Sean Monahan's leadership skills off the ice.
Yes, the 21-year-old is producing at a clip of 0.77 points-per-game in his third NHL season. Yes, he is second in team scoring and could hit the 30-goal plateau for the second straight season. Yes, he has been red-hot as of late, netting seven points in his last four games.
All of those things are overwhelming positive.
But Hartley is extremely pleased with how his young charge is developing away from the rink and how much responsibility he wants to shoulder.
There has been growing pains but he has taken every experience -- good and bad -- and used them to make himself a better player and teammate.
"He's maturing," Hartley explained. "He's turning into a great leader for us. Quiet Sean Monahan, we all know about this ... on the bench right now, he's getting to be more talkative. He expects more of himself. He expects more of others around him.
"On the ice, he's a real good producer for us. He's a good leader. Off the ice, starting on the bench and the locker room, he's starting to be taking his spot and I like his leadership role right now."
His teammates have taken notice as well.
"I think about 15, 20 games ago, Bob comes into our locker room and says everyone needs to step up a little more. I think as a leader on our team, he did exactly that," linemate Johnny Gaudreau recalled.
"As a younger guy, and him being a younger guy, it’s very contagious to watch him play so well and I get to play on his line and make plays with him and just try to keep producing for our team and keep jumping up another level for our play."
Monahan has come a long way since the Flames selected him sixth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. Since making the roster as a 18-year-old, the Brampton, ON product has scored a remarkable 79 goals and 151 points.
He has been in the top five in team scoring since entering the league, scoring no less than the 22 goals he potted as a rookie back in the 2013-14 campaign. He has seen his average ice-time per game grow from 15:58 as a freshman to the 19:37 it sits at today. Monahan's average shots-per-game has also seen a steep increase, from 1.87 in his first season to 2.49 now.
It has been quite the journey to this point in his third NHL season and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Thanks to his continued strong play, Monahan was tabbed as the NHL's Third Star of the Week after scoring five goals and seven points in four contests between Mar. 14 and Mar. 20. His elevated play has pushed him to 26 goals and 55 points on year -- five goals and seven points shy of his career-highs that he set last season.
When asked if anything had changed in his game in recent weeks, he pointed to feeling more comfortable in all areas of his game.
"I think [it's] my confidence. When I have the puck I’m trying to make plays and play the game the right way and lead by example. When you have that in your head that’s when good things happen
"I’m trying to step up here. The last 15, 20 games, it’s a tough stretch. I’m trying to lead by example, step up and take some ownership. I’ve been trying to get some people to follow."
Monahan's play has been a boon for his wingers throughout the year, particularity Flames leading scorer, Gaudreau.
The pair have established unwavering chemistry and have made life extraordinarily difficult on their opponents by running roughshod in the offensive zone. They read off each other well, with Monahan finding open ice and Gaudreau slipping him the puck through even the most difficult defensive structures.
Given the duo has been paired together for the majority of the past two seasons, one can expect to see them continue to play off another another as time rolls along.
"It’s fun," grinned Gaudreau. "You try to get him the puck anywhere in the offensive zone and if he gets a point-blank shot, most of the time it’s going in. He’s got an unbelievable shot. It’s so fun playing with him.
"I’ve found myself more of a playmaker, so I think we have a perfect fit. I just try to get him the puck in an open area. When I do that, most of the time he’s finding the net. It’s exciting to play with him. He’s a great player; he’s a smart player. He’s got a knack for the net there."