Saturday, October 05, 2013

Teen Sensation Sean Monahan Joins Elite List

Sean Monahan joined an exclusive club Friday night becoming only the third Calgary Flames player all-time to score an NHL goal as an 18-year-old.

Sixteen seconds into his first shift of his second NHL game, Monahan bowled his way to the front of the Columbus net and with veteran Blue Jackets defenceman Jim Wisniewski unable to contain him, Monahan was right there to bang Lee Stempniak's rebound past reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.

Just like that, 2:27 into the first period and 24 hours after picking up his first NHL assist, Calgary had a 1-0 lead in the game and Monahan had his first career goal.

Monahan's goal comes eight days shy of his 19th birthday. The only other Calgary Flames players to score at a younger age were Dan Quinn in 1983-84 and Jarome Iginla in the 1996 playoffs.

Looks Like a Big League Player

There are several bullet points on the list of criteria that determines whether or not a young man is ready for full-time employment in the National Hockey League. Seemingly on a daily basis, Monahan continues to methodically check them off. Look at his goal, for just one example.

Don't let the roster page on the Flames website fool you, Monahan may have been 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds at some point last spring, but he isn't any longer. Through a hardcore off-ice conditioning program and a regimented diet that includes eating particular foods and certain fats, Monahan tipped the scales at 200 pounds at the Flames fitness testing prior to rookie camp. That new-found strength, 10 or 11 pounds more than he says he weighed at Flames development camp in mid-July, was evident on his goal. Poor Wisniewski looked like he was fending off a bear with a fly swatter in a one-sided match-up in front of the net.

Monahan, a native of Brampton, Ontario, is big, strong, mature, disciplined and focused. He's smart in both ends of the ice and there's no sense of panic in his game whatsoever. Even when he talks with the media, it's all business. Selfishly, when we turn on our digital recorders we always hope for Craig Conroy, but we always end up with Jonathan Toews. But really, small quibble.

Still A Kid At Heart

Thankfully, every now and then Monahan reminds us that no, he's not yet 27, that he does hold a birth certificate that shows him as 18 and not yet old enough to have a celebratory drink in his home province of Ontario. Last night, that sign came immediately after his goal. First, he celebrated on the ice -- Stempniak the first on the scene to give him a hug, joined immediately by Sven Baertschi, Shane O'Brien and Chris Butler. Then, he shared the moment by parading by the Flames players bench for the obligatory glove bumps.

All that time, just like how Wisniewski was over matched trying to fend off Monahan, Monahan's serious exterior had no chance of containing the jubilation of a kid having scored his first NHL goal. Busting through was a sensational ear-to-ear smile from Monahan that wasn't going to be repressed -- nor should it have been. Scoring your first goal in the NHL is a big moment in a player's life and one to be cherished. Making it even more enjoyable and apr├Ęs pro for a team-focused guy like Monahan was it came in a 4-3 victory.

With seven games to go on his NHL audition, it's still not known whether Monahan will be an Ottawa 67 come November 1 or still be with the Flames. But, he sure looks committed to making it an awfully hard decision for Brian Burke and Jay Feaster. Although I suppose if he continues to play like he has in the first two games, you could say he's committed to making it an awfully easy decision for the Flames brass.

Calgary's Teenage Sensations

The Flames all-time top 18-year-old was Dan Quinn. Calgary drafted Quinn with its first round pick in 1983 after he had a phenomenal year with the Belleville Bulls, racking up 59 goals and 88 assists in 70 games. (Although his 147 points, which was third best, was still 30 points behind league-leader Doug Gilmour.)

That fall, Quinn was returned to the OHL but only for a couple of months. After lighting it up once again -- 23 goals and a league-leading 59 points through his first 24 games, Calgary brought him to the NHL for good. Quinn was 18-and-a-half years old when he made his NHL debut on Dec. 6, 1983, and wearing No. 10, he had an immediate impact that first season. In 54 games, he scored 19 goals and 52 points, finishing fifth on the club in scoring behind Kent Nilsson, Ed Beers, Lanny McDonald and Hakan Loob.

Other than Quinn, occurrences of 18-year-olds in the Flames line-up have not been very common and have rarely had a significant impact. The only other player of note was Jarome Iginla.

After his WHL playoffs ended with Kamloops in 1996, 18-year-old Iginla flew to Calgary to join the Flames who were embroiled with the Chicago Blackhawks in an opening round playoff series. Iginla arrived in Calgary in time for game three at the Saddledome. The rest of his story may sound familiar. After picking up an assist in his first NHL game, he scored a goal in his second game. Iginla was just shy of 18 years and 10 months at the time. But for Iginla, both games were losses as the Flames were eliminated in a four-game sweep.

12 Youngest Goal Scorers in Calgary Flames History:

1. C Dan Quinn (drafted in 1983 - 1st round, 13th) in 1983-84 - 18 years, 6 or 7 months*
2. RW Jarome Iginla (drafted in 1985 - 1st round, 11th by Dallas) in 1996 playoffs - 18 years, 9 months (First regular season goal came in 1996-97 - 19 years, 3 months)
3. C Sean Monahan (drafted in 2013 - 1st round, 6th) in 2013-14 - 18 years, 11 months
4. D Derek Morris (drafted in 1996 - 1st round, 13th) in 1997-98 - 19 years, 1 month
5. LW Kevin Lavallee (drafted in 1980 - 2nd round, 32nd) in 1980-81 - 19 years, 1 or 2 months*
6. C Robert Reichel (drafted in 1989 - 4th round, 70th) in 1990-91 - 19 years, 3 months
7. D Al MacInnis (drafted in 1981 - 1st round, 15th) in 1982-83 - 19 years, 4 months
8. LW Sven Baertschi (drafted in 2011 - 1st round, 13th) in 2011-12 - 19 years, 5 months
9. D Robyn Regehr (drafted in 1998 - 1st round, 19th) in 1999-00 - 19 years, 6 months
10. LW Oleg Saprykin (drafted in 1999 - 1st round, 11th) in 2000-01 - 19 years, 8 months
11. LW Richard Kromm (drafted in 1982 - 2nd round, 32nd by NYI) in 1983-84 - 19 years, 8 months
12. D Brian Glynn (drafted in 1986 - 2nd round, 37th) in 1987-88 - 19 years, 10 months

* Was unable to determine the exact date of his first goal but through research was able to narrow it down.

Related Flames Reading
  • 12 Key Factors if the Flames Are to Contend for a Playoff Spot - They're not expected to be very good but the Calgary Flames weren't supposed to be very good in 2003-04 either and they nearly won the Stanley Cup. A look at 12 things that (mostly) need to happen for Calgary to be in the playoff chase this season.
  • Should Sean Stay or Should Sean Go - A historical look at the past 15 years and how many  drafted players have made the immediate jump straight to the NHL. In that group there has already been two sixth overall picks.

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