Should Sean Monahan Play in the NHL Next Year?

Via the CHL

In the days since the draft, there’s been lots of talk as to whether or not Calgary’s 6th overall pick should play in the NHL next season. There’s a narrative out there about “rushing” players and how it’s bad: but I feel like if an 18 year old is ready to play in the NHL, is he really being “rushed”?

Personally, I feel as though Monahan should spend one more year in the OHL, which would allow him to get stronger, dominate competition and develop more defensively. It also saves Calgary some contract dollars down the line. But, as Jay Feaster has said, if he earns an NHL spot, he’ll be in the NHL. So – if Monahan makes the big leagues, what should we expect from him?

To find Monahan’s closest comparables, I set out the following criteria:

  • Played in one of the CHL leagues in their draft season – this allows for a relatively equal difficulty of competition in the season before, which can make a big difference in who we find as comparables: someone in the USHL or AJHL played lower quality competition, which likely means they scored less in their +1 season against NHLers. This ensures comparables that are artificially dragging the average one way or another aren’t included.
  • Played more than 9 games in the NHL the season after – this weeds out the guys who were only up for the part of their ELC that still allows them to slide back to the CHL.
  • Had a draft year NHLE of between 30 and 35 in their 18/19 year old season – similar scoring level to Monahan, which means similar development at similar age.
  • Drafted in the last 10 drafts – CHL scoring rates over the last 10 years have remained relatively consistent.

As a general rule, players don’t tend to play meaningful NHL games in their draft +1 season, so the field was narrowed considerably by that. We were left with 6 players. The crop of players in and of itself, while small, is quite impressive. The first 5 guys are among the best players on their team and Josh Bailey’s career is finally starting to live up to his draft position. 

Jeff Skinner 1.40 34.6 .77 63
Matt Duchene 1.39 34.1 .68 55
Gabriel Landeskog 1.25 30.6 .63 52
Mikkel Boedker 1.18 29.0 .36 28
David Perron 1.19 29.2 .44 27
Josh Bailey 1.43 35.2 .37 25
Average 1.30 32.1 .54 40
Sean Monahan 1.34 33.1 ? ?

Now, there were some guys who were above 35 in NHLE (Evander Kane, Nail Yakupov, Tyler Seguin, Sean Couturier and Taylor Hall) and some guys who were just below 30 (Ryan O’Reiliy, Alex Burmistrov, Andrew Shaw and Jordan Staal) as well who met the other criteria. Most of those guys are really good (or on their way to being really good).

The survivorship bias here is pretty small, too – aside from Alex Galchenyuk (season missed due to injury), O’Reilly had the lowest NHLE of any player who made the transition immediately from Junior to the NHL. Other than the 4 listed above, the only players who scored at higher rates than Monahan and transitioned the next season were almost exclusively #1 picks and Sam Gagner.


Like I said, as a general rule, players don’t tend to play meaningful NHL games in their +1 season. If a guy can’t handle it, he almost always goes back to Junior. Obviously there are contractual reasons to send players back down and I’m not saying that guys who don’t play in the pros immediately are junk, but the guys that do tend to be good players. 

The point here is that if Monahan makes the NHL on merit next year (and not based on a need to sell hope to the Flames fan base), it looks like there’s a lot of reasons why he could have a big first season. Furthermore, there’s some arrows here suggesting he should be a pretty good player. That said, his output will depend entirely on his circumstances – many of the guys in question stepped into primary roles right away, often with other good players, which is why they flourished. Keeping Monahan around to play 10 minutes or less a night in the bottom-6 wouldn’t make much sense.

  • icedawg_42

    Give him his 9 games and see how he does. I suppose another year dominating in the OHL couldnt be a bad thing, maybe he gets traded to a contender and gets some playoff experience and we can see what effect better linemates has on his even strenght numbers.

  • piscera.infada

    “his output will depend entirely on his circumstances – many of the guys in question stepped into primary roles right away, often with other good players, which is why they flourished. Keeping Monahan around to play 10 minutes or less a night in the bottom-6 wouldn’t make much sense.”

    For me, that sums it all up. Who does he play with here? Not a lot there. Can we throw a potential first/second line centre to the wolves in his draft +1 year? Probably not a great idea. Centre’s are tough in that regard.

  • The most intuitive comparables are Courturier and Landeskog who were bigger, mature centers in their draft year who leapt almost fully formed into the league as effective two-way centers.

    If Monahan is in that class, then giddy up.

  • Lordmork

    I’d prefer Monahan stayed in the OHL, then spent time in Abby, although I don’t see a problem with him getting up to the NHL for a few games. If we’re hoping for this guy to be a key piece of our team for a long time going ahead, I’d like to see him develop mental as well as physical maturity, before he gets to play full-time with the team. I don’t see the Flames as being really ready to compete for a few years yet, so I see no sense in rushing things, even if Monahan is “ready” for the NHL from a skills perspective.

  • aloudoun

    He plays 9 games and if he can regularly play in the top 6 he stays. If not he goes down.
    Same can be said for Sven and other rookies.
    Especially Sven… he stays in the top 6. (are you listening Hartley?!)

  • Parallex

    Hell to the no.

    It’d be a waste of an ELC year. What would having him play for Calgary accomplish? It won’t fill out his frame, it won’t make us a playoff contender, it won’t save us money down the road. Send him back to the OHL where he’ll almost certainly end up being traded to a good team so that he can experience both winning and a higher quality of competition in the playoffs.

    There is still stuff for him to do in the Junior ranks that won’t cost us an ELC year.

    Haste makes Waste.

    • Truculence

      100% AGREE!!!

      Let him get stronger and more mature and have another crack at the WJC.

      Ask the question the other way?

      What’s accomplished by him playing in the NHL next season?

      Will it hurt him to stay in junior 1 more year?

      “Nothing” and “no.”

      It’s all benefits to waiting, no positives to rushing.

  • BurningSensation

    You want a player to play against the best calibre of competition he can where he isn’t getting overwhelmed.

    If Monahan makes the team next year, it should be with an eye towards keeping his head above water. Favourable zone starts, quality linemates, even 1st unit PP time. Give the kid a chance to taste sucess, or your wasting his talent.

    Do NOT Joe Thornton the kid by stapling him to the bench and having him scoot out for 5min a night on a checking line. THAT is how you flush a year of his ELC.

    But if he can be a useful player at his age against men, you play him. The increased level of competition will be good for him.

    • BurningSensation

      I have more confidence in Hartley’s ability to do what you described than I would if Brent Sutter were still coach.

      This, to me, is a great year to have as Monahan’s first. But he has to earn it.

    • aloudoun

      On the other hand, Joe Thornton turned out pretty good… haha. I know what you’re saying and I agree, it’s just interesting that you used Joe Thornton.

      • BurningSensation

        I picked Joe Thornton because he was the poster child for a wasted first season. I think he had in the range of 3pts the entire year.

        Yeah he turned out fine, but I think it is clear he shouldn’t have been with the big club that rookie season.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I’d play him third line, 12-15mins/gm + special teams. I’d use Stajan and Backlund for top six to shield Monahan and hope they can hold the fort.

    Stajan, Glencross, Stempniak

    Backlund, Galiardi, Cammy/UFA

    Monahan, Baertschi, Jones

    Give him a straight line guy with experience plus a dynamic skilled guy who could also benefit from softer minutes initially. It’s about nurturing some confidence with the young guys. Playing tough minutes will make them play to not mistakes rather than playing to make things happen. PP/PK will allow him to play to his strengths.

    Just live with the mistakes and let him learn the league. Keep his confidence high by keep putting him out there with consistent linemates all year.

    • BurningSensation

      Exactly, and give the kid some PP time with the big unit to keep his whistle whet.
      If he shows signs of being overwhelmed, he can always go back to jr.

  • loudogYYC

    Monahan is a centre and there’s no need to rush him into a rebuilding team. I actually kinda hope the 67’s trade him to a contender next season, I’d like to see how he competes at a higher level.

    • If you’re talking about the Abbotsford Heat, Monahan can’t play for them next season because of an agreement that exists between the CHL and AHL (no U20 players drafted from the CHL can play in the AHL while his CHL team is active). He’ll be eligible next year, though, because of his late birthdate.

      If Monahan could play in the AHL, no one would be having this discussion because it would irrefutably be the best place for him.

      • SydScout

        Given the need to develop his defense skills (“Personally, I feel as though Monahan should spend one more year in the OHL, which would allow him to get stronger, dominate competition and develop more defensively”), what do we know about the ability for the Flames to keep close to his progress while in the OHL?

        Obviously at the Heat Ward would have direct involvement at improving his deficiencies. Just not sure what the process is while he is at the 67’s or elsewhere.

        Any insights welcome – just dont know how this will work.

      • jeremywilhelm

        The only thing JA proved is that it was the right decision to play the players he listed in the NHL their first season. It’s important to treat Monohan as Monohan and not like anyone else even though some numbers might be the same.

        If he is ready to play in the NHL he should, If he isn’t, then he shouldn’t. It’s that simple to me.

  • let me clarify:

    point 1: the only reason he shouldn’t play in the nhl next season (if he can) is the contractual one. unfortunately, for me, that is a big reason.

    point 2: unless he can play 2c minutes right out of the gate then he’s not nhl-ready yet.

    point 3: the flames have drafted a very good player here, regardless of the path he takes.

  • Discosis

    I have no problem with him playing if he makes it, but I sure would be livid if they kept him from playing World Jr’s because he had a role on the pro team.

  • RKD

    It’s a risk, I don’t think he should be here if he’s playing third or fourth line minutes personally. I felt the same way about Sven. These are offensive players who want to score, putting them on these kinds of lines I think would hamper their development. If Monahan is thrown to the wolves, it will be an unpleasurable for him. If he wants top 6 minutes, he’s either got to have a great camp but if not let him player another year in the OHL.

  • I don’t really expect him to stick but if he earns it let him have it. No matter what happens he should be given a full 9 games. Try him out on both PP units, give him time on both second and third lines. Once those fort 9 games are out if the way we can send him back to the OHL, then we’ll have a good read on him.

  • Truculence

    Given the fact that his two-way game was amongst the most advanced of draft eligibles, I think Monahan doesn`t necessarily need to crack the top-six. The Flames could utilize him as their third-line center, giving him 12-15 minutes a night.

    While I agree it is redundant to blow a year of his ELC if he doesn`t evince any pro-caliber skills or work-ethic (both of which are highly unlikely), he nevertheless should begin his adjustment to the pro game as soon as possible. If the AHL is not an option, give him sheltered minutes in the NHL to accelerate his learning curve. IMO, there is really nothing left for him to prove with the 67s, as they lack any high-end offensive talent to complement his skills currently. Watching him once again be the lone bright spot on a horrendous junior team is counter-productive.

    That being said, I am really excited to see what Monahan and Knight -as large two-way centers – can bring to the Flames next year. It will be neat to see them develop.

    Moreover, leaving aside the Reinharts and Horaks of the world, the Flames future top-six is also looking pretty damn good. If even half of the likes of Monahan, Knight, Baertchi, Poirier, Djanko, Gauderau,Granlund and Klimchuk can become top-six forwards, the rebuild will be well on its way!

    p.s.: watch for Djanko to have a very good year. I watched a few games, and his skill is undeniable. What he lacked last year was size, experience, and quality teammates. (why he chose to become one of the youngest rookies in NCAA history with a bean-pole frame and no experience beyond the high-school level is beyond me. He should have gone to either the USHL or reported to his CHL team) Given that he will be returning to his natural position as a pivot this upcoming year, I think he will assuage the concerns of many of the Flames faithful. Plus, if you look at it, he`s only one month older than Monahan!!!!

  • Truculence


    Can you do a comparables of guys who had a similar 18-19 junior season, and then spent that next year in junior? How did those guys do in there 19-20 year? Then, how did they do the next year in the NHL?