Despite the fact that he was Calgary’s leading goal scorer with 27 tallies last season, Monahan’s 58 points may seem like a disappointment to fantasy owners who drafted him expecting an offensive breakout. However, the statistical downturn was not entirely Monahan’s fault -- his 17:35 of average ice time was a stark departure from the 19:10 he averaged in 2015-16, and that surely has something to do with the fact that the Flames incurred a league-high 956 penalty minutes. Because the 22-year-old an offensive-oriented player and power-play specialist, as his healthy 3:01 of average ice time with the extra man will attest, he spent too much of the season riding the pine while his team killed off its numerous penalties. Considering that he actually managed to slightly raise his shot total to a career-high 199 despite the reduced minutes, Monahan could be in for a breakout into the top tier of offensive producers alongside Johnny Gaudreau on the Flames’ top line this season.
After two nearly identical campaigns with point totals in the low 60s, Monahan’s comfortably ensconced as a reliable NHL performer, but this could be the year that 2013’s No. 6 overall pick takes a giant leap forward. He’s still the top-line center in Calgary, meaning he retains the pleasure of making magic on offense with Johnny Gaudreau, and at the tender age of 21, Monahan is still reaching for his eventual ceiling. With the Flames likely to see significant improvement in net this year thanks to the presence of reliable veteran Brian Elliott, Monahan should see his rating spike back into positive territory, and stronger goaltending can lead to increased offense as well. There aren’t enough superlatives for his shooting, his playmaking and his grit, and the team context may finally be right for those attributes to propel Monahan to full-on stardom.
Monahan is one of the NHL’s rising young stars. Much like Jonathan Toews at a similar age, the 20-year-old is wise beyond his years. His vision is already elite and his unconventional shooting style -- he opens up square to the net and fires lasers, rather than transferring his weight from foot to foot -- makes his shot quick and his release hard to read. Monahan is also not one to sift around on the perimeter -- he's more than willing to go into the dirty areas to make plays. In fact, that’s where he pots most of his goals. His chemistry with Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler is like putting a flame to hydrogen, and that trio will be back together again for 2015-16. Just don’t expect a production leap like we saw between years one and two -- this season will be about consolidation and refinement.
Monahan's rookie campaign started about as well as possible, as the 18-year-old rookie raced to nine points in his first eight games. He cooled off considerably, but still ended up with 22 goals and 12 assists in 75 games -- quite the feat for a player his age. Monahan should only get better as he gets more experience, and the sky is the limit for the 19-year-old center. While the Flames may continue to bring him on slowly and start him on the third line to begin the season, it would be surprising not to see him in the top six by season's end.
The Flames' No. 1 pick has all the tools to make it to the NHL in relatively short time, as he can do everything on the ice. He burned up the OHL last season as one of its leading scorers and should make some noise again this season. Monahan isn't likely to see much time in Calgary this season -- as much as fans would like him to -- as he could use another season to refine his game. But stranger things have happened. We'll know more after the first nine games of the year. That's his "free" audition period before the Flames burn a year of eligibility with him. He might be too good to send back, particularly with the desperation the Flames have for offense.