Everything has been so quick. Honestly, it feels like I was just in Ottawa yesterday. The season went by quick last year and I think the majority of the seasons do. - Sean Monahan
GLENDALE, AZ -- It seems like yesterday, Sean Monahan admits, that he was lacing up the skates as a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.
He’s not far off.
As he gets set to lace them up for his 100th career National Hockey League game Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes, Monahan couldn’t help but reminisce about how quickly things have changed in the life of the 20-year-old.
“It’s flown by,” Monahan said Friday. “Everything has been so quick. Honestly, it feels like I was just in Ottawa yesterday. The season went by quick last year and I think the majority of the seasons do.
“That’s what happens when you’re having fun.”
Monahan’s had plenty of fun. Success too.
As the fresh-faced rookie who cracked Calgary’s roster as an 18-year-old just months after being named the sixth overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, Monahan burst on the scene to display one of the most promising rookie performances in Calgary’s recent memory.
Monahan’s 22 goals were the most from a Flames freshman in 24 years, dating back to 1989-90 when Paul Ranheim had 26 and Sergei Makarov had 24. Longtime Flames captain and franchise face Jarome Iginla had 21 in 1996-97.
Iginla regressed to 13 as a sophomore. Monahan has shown no such signs yet. He’s on pace to net 27 in his second season.
He’s doing it while being featured in a more prominent role, too.
“Last year, we basically covered him and protected him, making sure that he was not playing against the big boys too early so that we wouldn’t affect his confidence because we didn’t know who Sean Monahan was,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Now we fully know who he is and what he wants to do. I think he enjoys his role right now and is doing a great job.”
It comes with comfort. It comes with confidence.
It comes while going head-to-head with some of the league’s best centres, names like Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Joe Thornton.
“I think just mentally I’ve grown,” said Monahan, whose 30 career NHL goals top his draft class. “Obviously I came into the league young and I didn’t really know what to expect. A lot of the time, I was overthinking things and right now I’m confident in my game. I’m starting to play a more puck possession game and making plays. A big part of that is just mental in knowing I’m confident in myself.”
That confidence extends well beyond himself, though. Well beyond.
And at both ends of the ice in the wake of injuries to veteran centres Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund and Joe Colborne, too.
“I look in the three zones on both sides of the puck and [Monahan] always tries to be better,” Hartley said. “He’s such a low-maintenance person and player at the same time that you just enjoy working with him. We’re trying this year, right now, this season, with all the injuries we have at centre.
“It has been such a constant progression and [Monahan] is such the total package that it’s everywhere, every day.”