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Where does Sean Monahan fit in with the Calgary Flames?

Last season was a surprise-filled one for Sean Monahan. As an 18-year-old he made Calgary’s 23-man roster out of the pre-season and, rather than sending him back to the Ottawa 67s after the nine game mark, the team elected to keep him around for the full season.

And Monahan didn’t take for granted the opportunity presented to him. In the first two months of the season he put up 15 points, but unfortunately a hairline fracture in his foot forced him to miss seven games from the end of November through mid-December.

The bad news was the Monahan who returned from injury wasn’t the same as the one from the beginning of the season. His point production dramatically decreased and he just didn’t look like the same player. But despite his poor performance from December onward he still finished with 22 goals and 34 points.

Which brings us to 2014-15.

Having made the Flames’ roster in his first season, it seems all but certain he’ll do the same this season. So rather than asking “Will Sean Monahan make the Calgary Flames roster?” the question should be “What will his role be?”

If last season showed anything it’s that, when he was healthy, Monahan was a force to be reckoned with and had a very good chance of cracking 50 points. That would have put him ahead of Mikael Backlund who was arguably the team’s top centre last season. So it would be fair to say Monahan has a more than realistic shot at taking over Backlund as the team’s top centre.

But there is something that could serve as a big obstacle for Monahan: Backlund’s experience. He’s 25 years old and has 171 more NHL games to his credit than the younger Monahan. But his age and experience may not be enough to hold off Monahan from overtaking him as the pivot on the team’s first line.

Let’s get one thing straight, though, that role won’t just be handed to Monahan because of the potential he has to be a number-one centre. He’ll have to earn it. The way to do that is by being a consistent threat in the offensive zone – just as he was in the first two months last year – and being just as much of a nuisance to opposing forwards in his own end.

And he’ll have the opportunity to showcase those very aspects of his game to Bob Hartley and the rest of the staff in the pre-season. The competition isn’t comparable to that of a regular season roster – split squads, contract holdouts and other absences are to blame – but the competition doesn’t need to be so high for Monahan to showcase his talents.

And, from the Flames’ perspective, having two capable, young centres is a good problem to have. If either Monahan or Backlund fails to perform the way the organization wants or expects him to, it can simply swap the two – almost seamlessly – between the first and second line.

And if Monahan can’t take the spot it’s not the end of the world. He’s only 19 (soon to be 20) and has time to grow into that role in the coming years.

Andrew DiRienzo
Andrew is a die hard sports fan who follows any and all sports. When he realized a career as an athlete wasn't in the cards he decided to venture into the world of sports writing. Born and raised in Canada's capital, Ottawa, Andrew has a journalism diploma from Algonquin College and an Honours Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Ottawa. In addition to covering college athletics while at Algonquin, he has also covered the Women's World Hockey Championships (2013) and junior hockey.
Andrew DiRienzo
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