Last season, Sean Monahan introduced himself to the National Hockey League. He was a perfectly adequate center, as long as he was sheltered with lots of offensive zone starts, minutes against other team’s lesser lights, and some good line-mates. He scored many goals, and had a sky-high shooting percentage.
This season? He was thrust into the spotlight as the Flames lost Mikael Backlund and Matt Stajan to injuries right after the season began. In the second year of his entry-level contract, just around his 20th birthday, he became Calgary’s de facto #1 center.
And he didn’t look terribly out of place.
No Calgary Flames forward played more even-strength minutes than Sean Monahan in the regular season. He racked up 1180 minutes, more than 70 minutes more than Johnny Gaudreau, the next most-used forward.
Here’s everyone who played 100 minutes with Monahan this season.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Basically, most of the good possession players are dragged down by him, most of the bad players are improved by him, and his most common line-mates (Hudler and Gaudreau) are somewhere in the mushy middle.
To be honest, though, a lot of this noise in the data may be explained by how Sean Monahan was used by Bob Hartley. In short? Tough minutes. (At 20.)
Based on the time-on-ice competition metric, no Flames forward played against tough opposition. Bear in mind, Sean Monahan is the youngest regular player on the hockey team. It’s pretty impressive.
Monahan scored 22 goals (and 31 points) in 2013-14. His personal shooting percentage was 15.9%. This season, he scored 31 goals (and 62 points). His personal shooting percentage was 11.9%. He improved his overall Corsi For from 43.8% to 44.7%, which is a pretty impressive improvement when you bear in mind he was thrown into the deep end. His face-offs improved from 45.5% (at even-strength) to 48%. He basically improved in every way he could – by small measures, mind you – despite being placed in much less favourable positions.
His shooting percentage did drop, but look at where he got most of his shots from.
He’s 20. He played a ton of minutes against the league’s best, and he improved in basically every way he could. Monahan’s a smart player and has managed to use his size to get to the tough areas and score goals consistently over the past two seasons.
As the Flames improve, expect Monahan to get potentially easier ice-time. That said, they can afford to give Sam Bennett easier minutes because Monahan (and Backlund and Stajan) can eat up the tough minutes in almost every circumstance. Monahan was an unlikely success story: a player thrown into the NHL, months after the draft, on a rebuilding team without much forward depth.
Now he’s quietly growing into Calgary’s best center (and he might already be there), and that will definitely help Sam Bennett with his adjustment to the big league.
2014-15 BY THE NUMBERS
|#1 Jonas Hiller||#19 David Jones|
|#3 David Schlemko||#21 Mason Raymond|
|#4 Kris Russell||#23 Sean Monahan|
|#5 Mark Giordano||#24 Jiri Hudler|
|#6 Dennis Wideman||#25 Brandon Bollig|
|#7 T.J. Brodie||#29 Deryk Engelland|
|#8 Joe Colborne||#31 Karri Ramo|
|#11 Mikael Backlund||#32 Paul Byron|
|#13 Johnny Gaudreau||#33 Raphael Diaz|
|#15 Ladislav Smid||#60 Markus Granlund|
|#17 Lance Bouma||#79 Micheal Ferland|
|#18 Matt Stajan||#86 Josh Jooris|