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Monahan leading Flames' push to end playoff drought

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- One by one, a young Sean Monahan would stand in the backyard of his Brampton, Ontario home and pick off fence board after fence board.

One by one, his father, John, would replace the damage to his fence.

Sean Monahan
Center - CGY
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 25 | PTS: 54
SOG: 168 | +/-: 3
"Probably eight or nine a week," Monahan said, flashing a sly, almost bashful smile. "Between throwing the lacrosse ball around and shooting pucks, all the time, the fence boards would be cracked in half or knocked out.

“I don't think anything drove me to do it. I just wanted to do it. I enjoyed shooting pucks. I think it was just the passion for the game. I always wanted to hold a hockey stick or lacrosse stick and it was something I enjoyed doing.

"It was a lot of work for him."

His father's labor, one of love no doubt, has paid off for Monahan.

In his second NHL season, the 20-year-old first-round pick (No. 6) at the 2013 NHL Draft has scored 29 goals to lead the Calgary Flames to what could be their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.

Amongst his peers from the 2013 draft, Monahan was the first to score 50 goals in the League; he has 51. His 88 points trail the 101 put up by Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick.

And after scoring 22 goals in 2013-14, the first Flames rookie since Jarome Iginla in 1996-97 to score at least 21, Monahan hasn't slowed down in his second season.

"I don't really get what the sophomore slump's all about," said Monahan, who is 10th in the NHL in goals. "I think you should be better in your second year than your first year. I don't really get that theory (of a slump). You have a year under your belt and you come into your second year, you know what to expect. I think every guy should be better in their second year than your first year."

The continual growth of Monahan, who doesn't turn 21 until October, comes as no surprise to his coach.

Bob Hartley has seen him grow, figuratively and literally.

"Maturity. Commitment," Hartley said. "He wants to be the best. Doesn't get too high; doesn't get too low. He's on the job. He put on a great summer of work, got so much bigger, so much stronger. After this, there's experience. We're playing him a lot because I have lots of confidence in him.

"To score that many goals at a young age is pretty impressive. Dealing with [Monahan] on a day-to-day basis is just business as usual. He's already a great pro."

Hartley isn't the only one to buy into Monahan's growth.

Rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau, 21, has seen enough in his first season playing with Monahan to determine the root of linemate's success.

"He's great with the puck," Gaudreau said. "He's got such a quick release, a great shot, really, really accurate. It's pretty cool to see how well he's doing this season. He's just got a really good scoring touch. He's obviously done it all his life. I think it's just a quick release he's got going for him.

"It's excited to watch him play in his sophomore season here."

After scoring on 15.7 percent of his shots last season, Monahan's 29 goals this season have come on 168 shots, a 17.3 percent conversion rate, sixth best among players with 100 or more shots.

Sustainable or not, Monahan isn't concerned.

"Maybe it's a lack of shots on net," he jokingly said. "I'm not sure what it is. I'm getting the chances and getting the pucks in the net."

Gaudreau has assisted on nine of Monahan's goals this season, including three of his past four, and has marveled at his linemate's success.

Gaudreau can understand how the fence back in Brampton didn't stand a chance.

"He's really skilled with the puck," said Gaudreau, who has 20 goals and leads rookies with 57 points. "He's got such a great shot. He just finds a way to get open. When I'm in the offensive zone and I have the puck, he's always around the net but he's got an area for him just wide open. He finds the area really good. When he gets the puck, he knows how to put it in the net.

"I love playing with him."

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