Sean Monahan had quite an advantage in his first two Ontario Hockey League seasons, getting to play alongside three of the finest prospects in the league.
As it turns out, time with Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince and Cody Ceci with the Ottawa 67's has given Monahan the extra tools needed to incorporate into his repertoire as captain of the team.
Monahan had 53 goals and 125 points in 127 games beside Toffoli, Prince and Ceci in his first two OHL seasons. Toffoli and Prince started their professional careers prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, while Ceci, who was a co-captain with Monahan at the start of season, was traded to the Owen Sound Attack in January.
OHL coaches award Monahan
Even though the Ottawa 67's failed to qualify for the Ontario Hockey League playoffs for the first time in 18 seasons, coaches representing teams in the OHL Eastern Conference certainly thought very highly of 67's captain Sean Monahan.
Monahan, No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, completed his third season in Ottawa with 31 goals and 78 points in 58 games.
All the hard work didn't go unnoticed despite the fact his team only won 16 games, as the 6-foot-2, 186-pound center was voted among the top-three players in four separate categories during the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches Poll on March 13.
"I've been captain with a lot of teams growing up, so it's kind of a natural trait, I guess," Monahan told NHL.com.
Monahan captained his Mississauga Rebels midget team to the 2010 OHL Cup while being selected the tournament's most valuable player.
"When my coach announced that I was going to be sharing the 'C' with Ceci before the season, it was pretty special," Monahan said. "After the trade, I was made the full-time captain and it's something I take very seriously. We're kind of rebuilding and have a lot of young guys, so I take a lot of pride in that role."
Following the trade of Ceci, Monahan had 15 goals and 29 points in 29 games. For the season, he led his team in goals (31), assists (47), power-play goals (15) and points (78). His offensive output is even more impressive when you consider a young Ottawa team only won 16 games and he was the focal point of opposing teams.
Monahan hopes to follow the path of his three teammates at the 2013 NHL Draft. Toffoli was drafted in the second round (No. 47) by the Los Angeles Kings in 2010, Prince was chosen in the second round (No. 61) by the Ottawa Senators in 2011, and Ceci was selected 15th by the Senators in 2012.
Monahan is No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 Draft (tops among OHL prospects). The draft prognosticators for NHL.com had Monahan going eighth in two mock drafts, and ninth in another.
Monahan said that while it's tough to no longer have Toffoli, Prince and Ceci with the team, he realizes now is the time to take the reins as the team's leader.
"It's different but it's still the same … it's hockey," Monahan said. "Having them helped me offensively, but I don't think it changed my game. I play the same game with or without them, and I still think we have a lot of great players on our team that help me out in the offensive end. Obviously it would be nice to still have them around, but they've moved on in their careers and that's good for them. I think it's good for other guys on the team who now get an opportunity."
Monahan was selected to compete for a spot on Canada's 2013 World Junior Championship team, but was cut on the second day of camp. The experience, however, is something he'll never forget.
"It just shows how hard you have to work and I think I learned a lot," he said. "I guess if I can get that opportunity again next year, I know what it will take to be on that team. That's what I'm ready for."
Monahan did play a vital role for Canada prior to his experience at the WJC camp -- he was a member of Canada's entry for the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, posting three points in five games. He also led gold-medal winning Team Ontario at the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
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The 6-foot-2, 186-pound native of Brampton, Ontario, also received high praise for his play in the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge in August as the youngest member of the Canadian team. He contributed two goals and two assists in four games.
"Sean has high-end puck skills and playmaking ability," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He has very good offensive instincts and creates offense every shift."
NHL Network analyst Craig Button said he feels Monahan is extremely versatile, something he proved during the Canada-Russia Challenge.
"He's capable of being a No. 1 [NHL] center," Button said. "He played out of position at times, with different players and on the power play. He was exceptional. He started out as the 13th forward and the plan was to move him in and out, but by the end of the tournament he was a prominent forward."
Ottawa coach Chris Byrne, who is in his fourth season, feels Monahan is a solid two-way performer.
"He offers a high level of determination," Byrne said. "He makes players around him better, and the bigger the game, the better he plays. He leads by example and prepares like a professional."
Monahan has performed well in 22 OHL playoff games, recording 10 goals and 19 points. He had eight goals and seven assists in 18 postseason games last season as the 67's reached the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the Niagara IceDogs in five games.
While the team did not qualify for the OHL playoffs this season, there's no doubt Monahan has made an indelible impression on NHL scouts in his draft year.