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Monahan makes cut, opens season with Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames
Sean has earned the right to be with us and start the season here. We have a nine game window where we can audition him and determine whether he will remain with us in Calgary this season or whether we’ll send him back to the OHL and his junior team. Jay Feaster
CALGARY, AB -- Sean Monahan is sticking around a little longer.

The 18-year-old is among the 23 names on the Calgary Flames’ opening day roster and could make his NHL debut in Calgary’s season-opener Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

But where Monahan goes after that is up to him, according to general manager Jay Feaster.

“Sean has earned the right to be with us and start the season here,” Feaster said. “We have a nine-game window where we can audition him and determine whether he will remain with us in Calgary this season or whether we’ll send him back to the OHL and his junior team.

“We will continue to monitor Sean’s progress on a daily basis. We’ll see how he stacks up, how the game comes to him, what kind of ice time he gets, and then we’ll make a decision we believe to be in the best interest of both Sean Monahan’s continued development and also in the best interest of the Calgary Flames organization.”

Monahan, selected sixth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft last June, had two goals and three points and was plus-1 in five pre-season games.

His play earned rave reviews from Brian Burke, Calgary’s newly appointed president of hockey operations.

“I’m very impressed with our first round pick,” Burke said. “I had nothing to do with Mr. Monahan being selected so when I say that, I’m obviously not taking any ownership of that but I’m very impressed with him.”

Working in the Anaheim Ducks organization as a part-time scout, Burke identified Monahan long before joining the Flames.

Up close, he hasn’t disappointed Burke.

“The way we rated him in Anaheim was we felt he had a real high hockey IQ with a big body and pretty high compete level,” Burke said. “That’s usually a good combination and he’s demonstrated just those things here. He does compete. He hasn’t been as physical as he was in junior but that’s not unusual for an 18-year-old, but his skill level and his reading of the plays and the plays he makes -- he has soft hands for a big man -- I am impressed.”

Historically, Burke has been against keeping 18-year-olds on his roster.

As general manager of the Ducks in 2005, he sent second overall pick Bobby Ryan back to the Owen Sound Attack. Nazem Kadri, selected seventh overall in 2009, was returned to the London Knights when Burke served as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Monahan, at least temporarily, has avoided returning to the Ottawa 67’s.

He’s expected to get at least nine games in with the Flames. Game 10 kick starts the first year of Monahan’s three-year, entry level deal.

That’s when Feaster needs to make a decision on the prospect.

But the Flames’ GM has time on his side.

“One of the nice parts about the nine-game audition is that we decide when those nine games will take place,” Feaster said. “They don’t have to be the first nine. They can be spread over the course of three months if we decided we wanted to do it.”

How coach Bob Hartley utilizes the 6-foot-2, 185-pound pivot weighs heavily on whether or not Monahan sees a 10th game, according to Burke.

“The challenge to Bob is going to be if you guarantee Jay that this kid is going to play so many minutes and he can stay and in these situations, power play time and so on,” Burke said. “If not, going back to the CHL, it’s almost never hurt a player to go back.

“They say players are bored when they go back. Players get bad habits when they get back. Sometimes they do, but that’s our player development guy’s job. That’s Ronnie Sutter’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“I think they’re two good outcomes and I think Sean is going to dictate which one with his play early and whether he can justify the minutes and situational ice time that we would need to keep him here.”

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