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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Chasing Danny Quinn: Historical Context to Sean Monahan's Great Season at Age 19

Excuse Flames fans for feeling a little bit giddy. After all, Sean Monahan is having the type of year offensively that to be frank, hasn't been seen much around Calgary in the last quarter century or so.

After scoring both goals in Calgary's 2-1 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday -- Monahan's first NHL multi-goal game, the Flames 19-year-old rookie has fired a team-leading 18 on the season. With 22 games to go, Monahan is flirting with becoming just the third Calgary rookie in the last 23 seasons to reach the 20-goal mark. The other two: Jarome Iginla in 1996-97 (21 goals) and Dion Phaneuf in 2005-06 (20 goals).

Speaking of Iginla, how's this for a very cool historical footnote. Monahan's first two-goal game comes 17 years to the day of Iginla's first (and only) two-goal game during his rookie season, which also came at the age of 19. On March 1, 1997 against the Dallas Stars, the team that drafted him 11th overall in 1995, Iginla scored twice in a 4-1 win at the Saddledome.

On the Verge of Being the Flames Second Most Successful Teen

Impressively, Calgary's sixth overall pick in last June's NHL Entry Draft is doing all this as a teenager, which isn't easy. (Read my recent feature for The Canadian Press on how Monahan's rookie season is going off-the-ice).

Monahan does not turn 20 until Oct. 12. If he can score four more times before his next birthday and that will include a handful of games at the beginning of next season, he will pass Jarome Iginla and Robert Reichel and become Calgary's second most prolific goal scorer as a teenager behind Danny Quinn.

Danny who?

If you're under the age of 35, you probably have little to no recollection of Quinn, the exciting 5-foot-11 centre, who was drafted 13th overall by the Flames in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. However, if you are a female in your 40s, you quite likely had a crush on Quinn back in the day. Here's a quick backgrounder on him.

As happened back in those days, Quinn started the 1983-84 season playing major junior with the Belleville Bulls. However, after piling up a ridiculous 23-36-59 in 24 games to lead the OHL in scoring, the Flames called him up to the NHL.  He scored 19 goals in Calgary's final 54 games and then scored another 20 the next season as a 19-year-old. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1986 where he eventually scored 40 goals on the same Penguins team as Mario Lemieux.

Top 10 Calgary Flames Goal Scorers - As a Teen

1. Dan Quinn (1983-84, 1984-85) - 39
2. Jarome Iginla (1996-97) - 21
3. Robert Reichel (1990-91) - 19
4. Sean Monahan (2013-14) - 18
5. Kevin LaVallee (1980-81) - 15
6. Richard Kromm (1983-84) - 10
7. Derek Morris (1997-98) - 9
8. Oleg Saprykin (2000-01) - 7
9. Robyn Regehr (1999-00) - 5
9. Brian Glynn (1987-88) - 5

Notable Others: Sven Baertschi (3), Al MacInnis (1)

Ranking Monahan's Rookie Season

While Phaneuf and Iginla are the only two Flames rookies to have recently reached 20 goals, there were eight others that hit that mark since the franchise relocated to Calgary -- the others all doing it back in the high-scoring glory years in the 1980s.

There could be a couple asterisks on this list, however. Jiri Hrdina in 1988-89 and Sergei Makarov the next season, were ages 30 and 31 respectively for their 'rookie' season. It was after Makarov won the Calder as NHL rookie of the year that the league amended the rookie criteria so to be eligible, players have to be younger than age 26 on Sept. 15 of their rookie season.

At 18 goals, Monahan currently sits 14th on this list, tied with Gary Suter. He should make it into the top 10 by the end of the year and if he can get scorching hot again like he did to start the season, he might be able to make it into the top five. Although I'd suggest Joe Nieuwendyk's 51 goals is looking pretty safe atop the list!

Top 25 Calgary Flames Rookie Seasons - Goals Scored

1. Joe Nieuwendyk (1987-88) - 75 gm, 51-41-92
2. Hakan Loob (1983-84) - 77 gm, 30-25-55
3. Paul Ranheim (1989-90) - 80 gm, 26-28-54
3. Brett Hull (1987-88) - 52 gm, 26-24-50*
5. Joel Otto (1985-86) - 79 gm, 25-34-59
6. Sergei Makarov (1989-90) - 80 gm, 24-62-86
6. Carey Wilson (1984-85) - 74 gm, 24-48-72
8. Jiri Hrdina (1988-89) - 70 gm, 22-32-54
9. Jarome Iginla (1996-97) - 82 gm, 21-29-50
10. Dion Phaneuf (2005-06) - 82 gm, 20-29-49
11. Robert Reichel (1990-91) - 66 gm, 19-22-41
11. Jonas Hoglund (1996-97) - 68 gm, 19-16-35
12. Dan Quinn (1983-84) - 54 gm, 19-33-52
14. Sean Monahan (2013-14) - 53 gm, 18-8-26
14. Gary Suter (1985-86) - 80 gm, 18-50-68
16. Matthew Lombardi (2003-04) - 79 gm, 16-13-29
16. Cory Stillman (1995-96) - 74 gm, 16-19-35
18. Stephane Matteau (1990-91) - 78 gm, 15-19-34
18. Kevin LaVallee (1980-81) - 77 gm, 15-20-35
20. Theoren Fleury (1988-89) - 36 gm, 14-20-34
21. Jim Peplinski (1980-81) - 80 gm, 13-25-38
21. Colin Patterson (1983-84) - 56 gm, 13-14-27
23. Perry Berezan (1985-86) - 55 gm, 12-21-33
23. Denis Cyr (1981-82) - 45 gm, 12-10-22
25. Wes Walz, Al MacInnis, Richard Kromm, Ed Beers, Dave Hindmarch - 11 goals

* His Calgary totals before being traded to St. Louis on March 8, 1988.

Closing Thoughts on Different Eras

Not only is Monahan and the Flames of 2013-14 playing in a different era from the high-scoring days of yesteryear, the players that surround Monahan are also not of the same calibre that many others mentioned in this article had the luxury of playing beside.

While Monahan may end up with a rookie season that in terms of goals, may just barely make it into the top 10, all things considered, the calibre of season he's enjoying might just be one of the five very best for a forward in Flames history -- or at least he's in the conversation with the likes of Nieuwendyk, Loob, Iginla, Fleury, Quinn and Hull before... well, you know.

Regardless of where you want to rank Monahan's season -- third best, fifth, seventh. The bottom line is it's an encouraging start to Calgary's rebuild and is the type of year that can help make a rebuild shorter rather than longer -- especially if the organization can strike gold once again this June at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

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