Sean Monahan was just nine years old the last the last time the Calgary Flames won in Anaheim.
If the impressive rookie can stay hot when Calgary starts a five-game western road swing there on Wednesday, the surprising Flames may be able to put that dubious distinction to rest.
A win in Southern California would be a boost to the Flames (3-0-2). The last time they won in Anaheim was back on Jan. 19, 2004 when the Ducks (4-1-0) were still known as the Mighty Ducks.
“I never knew that, so I think that would be cool to get a win there,” said Monahan, who scored the game-winning goal in Calgary’s last game at home on Friday to propel the Flames to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Monahan is currently riding a four-game, goal-scoring streak. The six-foot-two, 185-pound centre leads the Flames with four goals, to go with two assists, and has recorded at least one point in every game he has played.
“I’m sure you guys realize how mature he is for a guy who’s just turned 19 (on Saturday),” said Calgary captain Mark Giordano. “If you watch him play, if you really watch his game, he’s such a smart, headsy player. You can’t teach what he has. He’s in a great spot all the time and when he gets those chances around the net he finishes, so it’s been pretty to watch so far.”
Calgary used the sixth overall selection to choose Monahan in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft last June and the Flames still have the option to send him back to junior with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. Monahan’s entry level contract will kick in as soon as he plays his 10th game with Calgary, which is slated to take place on Oct. 24 in Dallas against the Stars.
Calgary coach Bob Hartley hasn’t yet discussed the possibility of assigning Monahan back to the 67’s with general manager Jay Feaster or president of hockey operations Brian Burke.
“We know how to count to nine, so eventually we’ll have a breakfast or a lunch or a dinner,” Hartley said. “I’m sure we’re going to be talking about it.”
For now, Monahan will just go about his business of turning heads with his play in an effort to stick with the Flames for the rest of the season.
“I’m going to try and be the same player I’ve been and just continue to learn things and build on my game and try and be an everyday pro and let the cards fall where they fall,” said Monahan, who is coming off of back-to-back 78-point seasons with the 67’s. “I’m here to do my job and do my part and they’re going to make the decision whenever they want to, so we’ll see what happens.”
Fellow Flames rookie Sven Baertschi has enjoyed playing on the same line with Monahan and is hoping they can continue to build upon the chemistry they have developed.
“We understand each other really well, so it makes it easier to make plays right now,” said Baertschi, who has put up a goal and two assists through five games. “For him, the main thing is he’s just got to keep going, to keep playing the same way he’s playing. In the end, that’s the decision somebody else has to make for him. He’s been great here. He’s been outstanding.”
Baertschi knows what it’s like to be under the microscope as a highly-touted, first-round pick of the Flames. Calgary’s 13th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft started the season with the Flames last year, but was sent down to play in the minors with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat after going scoreless in his first four games.
Baertschi was eventually recalled and finished the season on a seven-game point-scoring streak, during which time he had three goals and six assists.
“I really enjoy it right now that I’m not always in the spotlight,” said Baertschi, who wants to do his part to extend Monahan’s current streak. “He should keep doing that well, so I can just do my thing and relax and make sure he’s scores goals and keep him happy.”
Monahan credited Baertschi with helping him through the process of adapting to life in the NHL.
“Obviously we’re both kind of in the same boat right now and we’re both working hard to try and play on this team full time,” Monahan said. “Sven’s a good player. We get along. We talk a lot on the ice, off the ice. Right now, we’re finding each other. I think we’re only going to get better.”
Goalie Joey MacDonald, who will start his fifth straight game for Calgary against Anaheim, has enjoyed all the youthful exuberance he’s seen with the Flames early in the season.
“With the young guys we have here, we’ve got lots of energy,” MacDonald said. “Everybody’s excited to get back at it (in Anaheim). It’s a tough place to get a win. We’ve got a new fresh start here and a great bunch of young guys. Hey, you know what? We’re up to the task.”
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