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Flames' Monahan, Baertschi still works in progress

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- They're both hailed as cornerstones of the Calgary Flames' future, but the trajectories for first-round picks Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan couldn't be more different.

Baertschi and Monahan are finding the NHL's rigors to be a grind, but each is navigating through his rookie season as best he can.

"I've learned a lot," said the 19-year-old Monahan, who has now played 20 games. "Coming to the rink with NHL players, you learn something new every day. You've just got to soak up any information you get. The little details in this League are the biggest thing, and that's something I'm really paying attention to.

"If I want to know something, I'll ask a question. There's a lot of good veterans in that room. It's easy to talk to those guys, and at the same time, I try to soak up any little information that guys are talking about or that I can pick up during games."

Monahan's proved to be a quick study.

The first-round pick (No. 6) in the 2013 NHL Draft made the jump directly from junior into pro hockey at 18 and hasn't looked back. The former Ottawa 67's standout has a share of the team lead in goals (eight) with veteran Mike Cammalleri. He's also second in team scoring with 13 points.

"I didn't really have any expectations coming in," Monahan said. "I just wanted to work hard and earn a spot and do whatever I could to make the team better. It's a tough League, and it's fun to compete out there."

Like any young rookie, growing pains still exist with Monahan though. He has two points (one goal, one assist) over the past seven games.

"He's a baby; he's a baby," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "We're not going to make the perfect player out of him in one season. He's 19 years old. He's so much fun to work with. But at the same time, us as a coaching staff, we're aware that he's going to make an inexperienced mistake. It's normal."

The road has been a little rougher for the 21-year-old Baertschi.

He has one goal and seven points in 17 games, and on three occasions he's been a healthy scratch.

It's been hard, but Baertschi sees the upswing in things.

"You know what? It's fun, but it's hard," Baertschi said. "For me personally, I want to make sure I'm getting better every day. The level picks up. The first few games of the season, guys start getting used to the game, but then it picks up really fast."

The No. 13 pick at the 2011 NHL Draft burst onto the scene as an emergency recall from the Portland Winterhawks in the spring of 2012. He recorded three goals in five games before returning to the Western Hockey League, skyrocketing expectations on what the Bern, Switzerland, native could do in a full season.

But Baertschi struggled to meet those expectations last season, his first as a pro. He recorded 10 points in 20 games while bouncing between Calgary and the Abbotsford Heat in the American Hockey League.

"It's kind of crazy if I look back," Baertschi said. "It was two years ago when I got called up. Time went by really fast, and now I'm here and now I'm trying to stay up all year. I guess it's a lot of up and downs and time goes by really fast and time goes really slow. It's just part of growing up, I guess."

The paths of Calgary's rookies have certainly been different, but expectations remain the same from the coach. And just like with Monahan, Hartley knows Baertschi is going to experience bumps in the road.

"As long as the commitment is there, I have no problem with mistakes," Hartley said.

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