Sean Monahan has stolen some of the thunder from his famed winger.
The 21-year-old Calgary Flames centre has turned in two productive months — six goals, nine assists in February; and six goals and five assists so far in March — and is now getting the same kind of attention his running mate Johnny Gaudreau has been attracting all season.
Monahan’s recent play has observers wondering if he’s taken the step from being a fast-rising phenom to that of a legitimate, all-grown-up NHL star.
“He’s maturing,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley told reporters the other day during the team’s current road trip.
“He’s turning into a great leader for us. Quiet Sean Monahan, we all know about this — on the bench right now, he’s getting to be more talkative. He expects more of himself. He expects more of others around him.”
Monahan scored five goals and seven points total in four games last week to earn league-wide third star honours.
Heading into Thursday’s game on the road against the Minnesota Wild, he sits at 55 points, leaving him eight points shy of exceeding his 62 from last year, the best of his three NHL seasons.
"He's stepping it up, ramping it up." – Johnny Gaudreau on Sean Monahanhttps://t.co/RKPPS2nTi9
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 21, 2016
Funning thing is, while Gaudreau has gotten all the attention as a scoring whiz this season, Monahan now finds himself just a single tally away from matching Gaudreau’s current total of 27. It’s true Gaudreau has a bunch more assists, but goal-wise Monahan has proven himself just as dangerous. It’s entirely possible that Monahan will turn out to be the team’s biggest star in the coming years, or at least on par with Gaudreau.
Both Gaudreau and Monahan are finishing off the final years of their entry contracts and are due big money raises this summer. Until they are both signed, that storyline will be focus of the off-season in Calgary.
Monahan has 12 goals and 14 assists in 24 games since the all-star break, going from having a so-so year to potentially finishing things off in the spring in explosive style.
“I think (it’s) my confidence,” he said.
“When I have the puck I’m trying to make plays and play the game the right way and lead by example. When you have that in your head that’s when good things happen.
“I’m trying to step up here. The last 15, 20 games, it’s a tough stretch. I’m trying to lead by example, step up and take some ownership. I’ve been trying to get some people to follow.”