Calgary Flames rookie center Sean Monahan will stay with the team for the remainder of the season.
Monahan, the sixth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, leads the Flames with six goals, and his nine points are second. He's averaging 15:46 of ice time per game, but the past two games he's seen more than 19 minutes.
"We always tell players, they make the decisions," Flames general manager Jay Feaster said. "The players decide, and in Sean's case Sean decided. Through his performance through those first nine games he demonstrated he can play in the League."
Analysis: Flames made right call
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
The Flames made the right decision Wednesday in opting to keep 19-year-old center Sean Monahan. And it goes beyond the team-high six goals in nine games he has so far -- although that's a big part of the decision. READ MORE ›
Feaster said he was feeling pretty positive about Monahan staying with the team, but a recent three-game swing through California clinched it for him. He played more than 15 minutes against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 16, and again had more than 15 minutes of ice time Oct. 19 against the San Jose Sharks, scoring a goal with an assist. Then on Oct. 21 he played a career-high 21:16 against the Los Angeles Kings and had a power-play goal in a 3-2 victory.
"I felt that when we left for the road trip to California that it would have taken a precipitous drop in his play to make me think he should go back," Feaster said. "When we got into the games against Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose … watching him play through the California games, that solidified it."
Feaster said Monahan is far from a finished product, but the aspects of his game they want him to improve, among them his skating and his success on faceoffs, would be better served by working with NHL coaches than going back to his junior team, the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League. Because of his age and the fact he was drafted from a Canadian Hockey League club, he is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League.
"The things in his game he needs to work on we believe he will advance and develop faster working on them at the NHL level with our coaching staff as opposed to going back and playing another year of junior," Feaster said.
Had the Flames sent Monahan back to his junior team prior to playing a 10th game, they could have delayed the start of his three-year entry-level contract for a season. However, they would not have been able to recall him unless it was under emergency circumstances.
Though keeping Monahan for the remainder of the season starts the clock running on him reaching free agency, Feaster said that wasn't a concern.
"It was made clear to us from the very beginning," Feaster said. "[Ownership] said you make a hockey decision, don't make a decision based on thinking that we need to have the contract slide and keep him in his entry-level [contract]. One of the things I believe is the collective bargaining agreement supplies us with sufficient tools that we're not saying, 'Oh boy we're concerned with when Sean Monahan is going to be an unrestricted free agent.' There are tools in place that we expect this young man to spend an entire career with us.
"The fact is from a [salary] cap situation it's not a problem. The organization has said don't make a business decision, make the right decision for the young man's development and our success as a team."
Had Monahan gone back to his junior team, he likely would have been an easy selection for Hockey Canada for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. Monahan had one goal in two games at a junior evaluation camp in August in Lake Placid, N.Y., where Canada played exhibition games against the United States, Finland and Sweden.
Feaster said Monahan's NHL status would not preclude him from being a part of the team Canada sends to Malmo, Sweden for this year's tournament.
The tournament runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2014, and Canada will have a training camp prior to the start of the tournament. Feaster said any decision on Monahan's availability for the tournament will be made when necessary.
"As a philosophical matter we're big believers in the World Junior Championship and what that can do for players," Feaster said. "In the case of Sean we will evaluate his situation, his minutes, we would evaluate our situation, where we are in the standings. We'll evaluate all that when the time comes."