Sean Monahan is getting set to set the tone for the home stretch of his NHL draft year.
The six-foot-two center is widely regarded as the top Ontario Hockey League draft eligible available this June, routinely pegged as a potential top-5 pick. Monahan will have ample opportunity to show scouts his skill and character between now and the end of the season on an Ottawa 67’s club having a trying season.
Monahan, captain in Ottawa, has had some trying moments of his own in his draft year.
Prior to the Christmas break, Monahan served a 10-game suspension on what was deemed to be bad hit against Plymouth Whalers defenceman Colin MacDonald in a game on November 18th.
The suspension extended into Canada’s selection camp for the World Junior Championship.
And after a strong showing during Canada’s series against Russia in the summer, optimists believed Monahan would make the squad, who was ultimately returned to the 67s.
The OHL-imposed break may have been a blessing for Monahan, though. With a little extra motivation in his pocket from the ban – as well as being cut from Canada’s World Junior roster – Monahan has flourished. Since returning from the Christmas break, he has put up 10 points in seven games.
His efforts have become even more important in Ottawa as the 67’s shipped out many veterans at the OHL’s trade deadline, including former co-captain Cody Ceci. The natural leader is not sulking. In fact, he still believes if his team gets hot they can make a push for a playoff spot despite being behind the pace by a dozen points.
“I honestly think we still have a good team here with the new players we brought in,” Monahan said.
And while Monahan may not get the opportunity to showcase his skills – at least for the time being – in a tight playoff chase, there’s more than enough sample size to see how the 18-year-old fares under pressure.
Not only does he have the two gold medals and an OHL Cup for his mantle, Monahan was integral part of a team that made a run to the OHL’s Eastern Conference final last spring before being losing out to the Niagara Ice Dogs. During the run he racked up 15 points in 18 games.
And while it’s unlikely Monahan will get the opportunity to replicate those numbers this season, he insists learning experiences are to be had.
“I think it’s a lot of adversity,” Monahan said. “Whether you are the best team or the worst team (in tournaments or playoff series) you always have to come in stay positive. I think I learned that playing on the teams I’ve been on throughout my career. That has helped me become the player that I am today.”
That player has become one of the most sought after members of the 2013 NHL Draft class. But it hasn’t been an overnight journey for the Brampton, ON. product. It’s a process that has evolved for Monahan, now in his third season in the OHL.
Last year, while bolstering his way to the top of the draft charts for 2013, he spent most of the season on a line with two-time 50 OHL goal scorer Los Angeles Kings prospect Tyler Toffoli, a luxury most junior hockey players aren’t afforded back-to-back years.
With his strong play he nearly doubled his numbers from his rookie campaign finishing the year with 33 goals and 78 points. He’s not on pace to duplicate those numbers this year simply because of the amount of time he’s missed, but the 67’s have found some players they believe can play with him for the next year-and-a-half.
“It’s obviously different (this year),” Monahan admitted. “Toffoli was a great player and it was a privilege playing with him, he knew how to score and get open for me. It was good for me because I think I’m more of a playmaker than a goal scorer.”
That’s not to say Monahan can’t finish, though, who has 69 career goals scattered across parts of three OHL seasons.
It’s the same type of finish he’ll require down the stretch as he pushes to be one of the top names taken off the draft board this June in New Jersey.