We’re fortunate. We have an unbelievable player but we have a very mature young man. He’s always pushing himself to get better. - Bob Hartley
ST PAUL, MN -- The way Sean Monahan has asserted himself in his first National Hockey League season, the rookie is running out of ‘firsts’ to accomplish.
The first round pick is continually dropping them as he continues to navigate through his rookie season with the Calgary Flames.
The latest? Monahan’s goal 1:50 into overtime on Saturday -- his second of the game -- not only lifted the Flames to a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in the ‘Battle of Alberta’, but also marked his first career game-winner in extra time.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Monahan said. “Obviously it’s my first overtime goal. At this point I just want to win as many hockey games as we can. By helping the team do that, it’s pretty special.”
The goal made Monahan the youngest Calgary player in franchise history to score an overtime winner and earned the team's youngest skater some praise from one of the Flames’ most veteran players.
“One thing you learn about Monny is he doesn’t miss too many of those chances he gets around the net,” Mark Giordano said. “He’s got a knack for putting it in. Good on him and I’m happy for him.”
It’s not by coincidence the 19-year-old is leading the charge up front for the Flames.
Monahan, whose 18 goals this season are a club-best, is just reaping the benefits of the work he’s put in this year, according to coach Bob Hartley.
“I think that we always talk about Monny’s progression since Day One,” Hartley said. “From training camp on, he’s getting stronger and stronger and I feel since the (Olympic) break, there’s even more pop to his skating. Remember that he had a broken leg and we got him going right away. Not that he didn’t skate well before, but I feel that the break really helped him.”
While some jettisoned to sandy beaches during the near-three week break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the former Ottawa 67’s standout instead opted to return home to Ontario.
It didn’t go unnoticed by the Flames’ bench boss.
“It was his break,” Hartley said. “That’s the commitment that he has. He’s just starting his career and he’s getting a pretty big chunk of ice time from us. At the same time, he’s a kid that’s driven. He wants to be a great player.
“We’re fortunate. We have an unbelievable player but we have a very mature young man. He’s always pushing himself to get better. Right now, he’s collecting what he’s invested during the break.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman downplayed the results he’s gotten this season.
“I’m just trying to stay focused right now and stick to my game,” Monahan said. “Lucky enough I’m getting some good bounces. I think that’s helping me get some confidence and like I said, stick to my game plan.”
Monahan wasn’t the only youngster impressing on Saturday, either.
His line, featuring 24-year-old Joe Colborne and Markus Granlund, 20, both gave Calgary an injection of youthful exuberance and a glimpse into what could be the future of the Flames.
The trio, which is expected to remain intact Monday against the Minnesota Wild, earned rave reviews.
“Those three kids gave us quite a game,” Hartley said. “I really liked the game they gave us. They were on the puck. They were good.”