Newspaper article The Canadian Press

More Muscled Sean Monahan Prepares for Next Step with the Calgary Flames

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

More Muscled Sean Monahan Prepares for Next Step with the Calgary Flames

Article excerpt

Monahan ready to build on solid rookie season

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CALGARY - With a few more pounds of muscle on his frame, Calgary Flames forward Sean Monahan looks ready to build on an impressive rookie season and avoid a sophomore slump.

Monahan scored 22 goals as a rookie last season and was fifth on the Flames with 34 points in 75 games.

It's easy to forget Monahan doesn't turn 20 until next month. At six-foot-two and 185 pounds, he cruises into the faceoff circle with a confident demeanour. He says he's about eight pounds heavier than his rookie weight.

"I focused on the stuff that I really needed to focus on, so I did a lot of strength training and explosive stuff and really focused on diet," Monahan said Monday in Calgary.

When Monahan turned up wearing a tight T-shirt at a summer hockey camp run by Bob Hartley, the Flames head coach did a double take.

"He just said I look like a man," Monahan said. "I worked hard this summer so I think it's paid off. It obviously doesn't matter to me if other people notice it. It all comes down to me.

"Whatever work I put in, I feel it on the ice and I think that's the biggest thing."

Drafted sixth overall by the Flames in 2013, the centre from Brampton, Ont., had a legitimate shot at making a rebuilding Flames roster as an 18-year-old last fall.

But his offensive contributions outstripped expectations. Monahan was the first Flames rookie since Jarome Iginla in 1996-97 to score 21 goals.

Monahan did finish the season minus-20, but few Flames were in the black in plus-minus on a team that finished 27th in a 30-team league.

Monahan put up impressive numbers despite a hairline fracture in his foot that kept him out seven straight games in November and December.

With top-line centre Mikael Backlund sidelined with injury, Monahan averaged well over 18 minutes per game in the last five games of the regular season.

He was then invited to play for Canada at the world championships, where he had two assists in seven games, to pack even more experience into his rookie campaign.

"Suddenly he's more talkative. It's just part of feeling more confident," Hartley said. "Now he knows that he really has a spot on this team. He knows about the NHL.

"We have big expectations about Monny, but what makes me feel the most comfortable is Monny by himself sets some real high expectations."

There's inevitable questions about avoiding "the sophomore slump." Monahan will no longer surprise opposing teams, so he'll need that additional strength.

"Here's my explanation on sophomore slump," Hartley began. "Number one, as a rookie, the other teams don't know you very well so sometimes you get the fifth or sixth defenceman, you get the third line playing against you. Sean Monahan will get much more attention from opponents this year.

"Number two, and that's where I feel so good, is many young players get a great first year and they sit (on it). …

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