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Monahan not resting on second-year success

by Paul Mawdsley / Calgary Flames

Right now I feel confident. Playing in those 19-to-22 minutes per game gives you confidence in your game. It was a big step for me and I have a lot to improve on and be better for next year.Sean Monahan
CALGARY, AB -- Sean Monahan is making strides.

Monahan followed a successful rookie season by posting 31 goals and 31 assists in his sophomore campaign, marking a total improvement of 28 points over his rookie campaign.

But more impressively is what the improvement represents.

Over the past 20 NHL seasons there have been just 11 players to have at least 30 goals and 30 assists in the same season before their age-21 year. Among them are Sidney Crosby (twice), Marian Gaborik (twice), Steven Stamkos (twice), Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Jeff Skinner.

“Obviously it was a big step from last year,” Monahan said. “Right now I feel confident. Playing in those 19 to 22 minutes per game gives you confidence in your game. It was a big step for me and I have a lot to improve on and be better for next year.”

Those improvements he saw from year to year can be traced back to the work that he put in during the last offseason.

The 6-foot-2 centre will stick with the same offseason regiment, as it was very successful.

“I think I’m going to try to do the same things,” Monahan said. “Obviously you want to get quicker and stronger, like everyone else. What I did last year helped me a lot and helped me feel good on the ice. This is something I’m going to stick with and prepare the same way.”

Monahan will be aiming to get better in many areas of his game.

After experiencing different aspects of the game this season, he will be trying to improve and understand what he needs to do in those situations.

It’s something that comes with age and experience.

“We just talked about what we want to improve on,” Monahan said. “It was a big step for me playing different minutes and different situations. I’ve got to get better at the little things and those are the things we talked about. Those are the things that are going to help me.”

One focus of that training will be getting better in the face-off circle.

Monahan led the Flames in draws with 1830, over 900 more than Mikael Backlund’s second-place total of 875. Only Joe Colborne (52.4) and Matt Stajan (50.3) finished with a higher percentage of wins than Monahan’s 49.3 percent rate, up from the 46.0 percent he recorded in 1036 draws in his rookie season.

Still, there’s more work to be done at the dot.

“You can always improve on that,” Monahan said. “I want to be a guy that can go out and win the draw and be over 50-55%. That’s something I’m going to work towards for next season.”

Having witnessed the improvements up close, Monahan’s teammates know just how good of a player he is. They have seen the progress both on and off the ice.

It’s upped the expectations for the 20 year old.

“Monahan has progressed so much this year,” said Backlund. “We are all happy to see him have a great season, he’s going to be a great player for us for many years.”

Added Colborne: “I think Monahan is one of the best two-way players in the game. He’s got a bright future.”

That progression helped lead the Calgary Flames to the post-season for the first time since 2009 and, with an opening series win against the Vancouver Canucks, out of the first round for just the second time since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989.

But Monahan is not satisfied with his season ending in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks and is focused on helping his team get back to the playoffs next year. That is what he will be working towards in the offseason.

“That playoffs was fun,” he said. “The feeling of playing in that atmosphere is something that we are going to want to do next year and that’s what we are going to work for.

“We have a group here that wants to win and we’re not satisfied with what we did this year. Next year is a big year for us. We’re going to try and push to do whatever we can to come back with the outcome we want.”

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