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Monahan healthy again, having career year for Flames

24-year-old center on pace for NHL bests in goals, points after four offseason surgeries

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

CALGARY -- Sean Monahan isn't taking his good health for granted while he's building an NHL career-best season with the Calgary Flames.

The 24-year-old center scored his Flames-leading 21st goal of the season in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday. Monahan reached the 20-goal mark in Calgary's 32nd game (Dec. 12), his fastest in six NHL seasons. He's on pace for 47 goals, which would easily eclipse his NHL career high of 31, which he accomplished in in 2014-15 and matched last season.

That he was able to score 31 goals and finish with an NHL career-best 64 points in 2017-18 before being shut down for the final eight games of the season was a tribute to his tenacity. By mid-April, Monahan had four different operations -- a wrist reconstruction, two hernia procedures and groin surgery.

"Not a lot of guys knew what he was going through," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "That just shows what kind of leader he is, what kind of player he is, what kind of person he is.

"He keeps his mouth shut and shows up to work every single day. He did it that way and still had a heck of a season last year."

A return to good health has unleashed an even better Monahan this season.

Video: TBL@CGY: Monahan chips loose puck past Domingue

"Obviously when you go through a summer like that and you've had all those surgeries, well, my goal was to come into the season healthy," Monahan said. "When you feel good about yourself and your game, that's when your mind is right, that's when you're mentally strong and you're going into games expecting to be at your best.

"It was a long summer. It gets frustrating at times, but as the summer goes along and you start to feel better, it's exciting. The moves we made throughout the summer made me much more excited, too, and this is an important year for our team."

Calgary's trade of defenseman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland and defense prospect Adam Fox to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm on June 23 has already paid big dividends.

The Flames (22-11-3) are in first place in the Pacific Division, and Lindholm has been a great fit on a line with Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. With 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists), he's third on the Flames behind Gaudreau (47) and Monahan (40).

"I think he's been a great player since he's been in the League," Monahan said of Lindholm. "We were in the same draft (Lindholm was selected No. 5 by the Hurricanes in the 2013 NHL Draft by Carolina; Monahan was the No. 6 pick by Calgary) and you tend to watch guys that were drafted around you. I thought he was a great player when we played against him, and I'm real happy he's on our team."

But the chemistry between Monahan and Gaudreau is the force that drives much of what the Flames do.

That chemistry was almost instantaneous when Gaudreau, selected by Calgary in the fourth round (No. 103) in the 2011 NHL Draft, joined the Flames out of Boston College and played his first game on April 13, 2014. Monahan was an NHL rookie that season.

"I think when you play with someone as long as we have, you're going to develop chemistry," Monahan said. "But I think our instincts are the same and we play the game kind of similarly, the way we think the game, but differently with the puck.

"When he has the puck, I'm trying to find an open area and he's obviously trying to find me. When you have chemistry with a guy like that, it goes a long way in your game."

In Gaudreau's eyes, Monahan is more crafty and clever than many suspect.

"He's secretly really smart on the ice, really knows where his guys are," Gaudreau said. "People probably know him for his shot, but he works hard in the D-zone and he's a great leader.

"It's hard to see those things from watching the game [on TV]. But guys respect him for all those things in this locker room and he's a player that brings his all every night, which is what you need."

Hamonic has been Monahan's teammate since the start of the 2017-18 season after being acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders for three draft picks on June 24, 2017.

"I'll speak for my time in New York," Hamonic said. "We only played these guys twice a year, but I hated it. I was always having to match up against them, and that made for some long nights.

"Now you put them with [Lindholm] and it's a pretty dangerous trio that I don't think a lot of players or [defensemen] necessarily want to play against."

Hamonic said Monahan is ultracompetitive.

Video: PHI@CGY: Monahan one-times puck past Stolarz for PPG

"He wants to win," Hamonic said. "He wants to score more than anybody."

Coach Bill Peters, hired by the Flames on April 23, 2018, has seen Monahan from afar, when he coached the Carolina Hurricanes from 2014-18, and now up close. He said Monahan should continue to improve.

"He's taken a lot of pride in playing the game the right way, being good defensively and really bearing down on face-offs, all the little, small details in the game that make a difference," Peters said. "He can play against everybody's best... (is) always going to see the other team's shutdown D.

"He's a young guy who should continue to get better the next four, five, six years and he's a competitive guy. He wants to be out there in all situations and wants to be counted upon and we do count on him.

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