BARRIE — Asking about Sean Monahan around the locker room of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s makes one wonder if at the junior hockey level there is a single hole in the forward’s game.
Watching him, on the other hand, confirms the suspicion.
To rookie defenceman Jonathan Duchesne, captain Monahan is far more than the team’s best player.
“He’s great in the room and he leads by example a lot,” said Duchesne, outside the 67’s dressing room at Barrie’s Hershey Centre after a 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Colts.
“When you’re around a guy like that you just want to push yourself and make yourself better. He is what every hockey team needs.”
The 6-foot-2 and 193 pound native of Brampton plays a two-way game that has scouts pegging him to go between three and six in the next National Hockey League Entry Draft.
As a 16-year-old, he scored 20 goals two seasons ago, and then last year he increased his offensive production to 78 points in 62 games while garnering lofty comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews for his dominance on all 200 feet of the ice.
One could suppose that a player like that, especially one just recently turned 18 (his birthday is Oct. 12), would have a big head.
“I think it’s a team game,” Monahan said, with a friendly demeanour despite the pounding his group just endured.
“I just put all the distractions aside, and come to the rink and enjoy being around the boys. We have a great group of guys so I just come to the rink, work my hardest and try to get better every day.”
In his last season of midget hockey, he played for the renowned Mississauga Rebels program and was dominant, scoring 46 goals and 90 points in 47 games.
This year he leads the charge of an Ottawa team that lost three of its five leading scorers, including two-time 100-point man Tyler Toffoli, and to date has 14 points in 10 games.
He is realistic about the 67’s situation.
“Obviously losing those guys was big,” Monahan said.
“But I think we have a lot of new and young guys ready to step up. As of now we’re just learning and working hard, and when you do that good things are bound to come.”
This past summer, he scored four points in four games as one of two undrafted players on the Canadian national junior team that took on Russia in a four-game series split between Halifax and Yaroslavl.
He looked completely at ease among the best under-20s the nation had to offer, and Chris Byrne, his coach in Ottawa, is not surprised in the slightest.
“He’s a mature kid,” Byrne said.
“He’s doing a great job of avoiding distraction, he has seen other guys go through what he is, and so he knows what the attention is all about.”
Yet Monahan remains humble.
“It was a whole different world going to Russia,” he said.
“I loved it and just being around those kinds of players and staff was so great. It was a big learning curve for me, but just watching those great players and how they prepare was so beneficial for me.”
Should the NHL lockout continue, he will remain on the bubble to make the 2013 world junior team as veterans, such as Mark Scheifele, who put up six points against his team on this night, will be widely available to suit up in Omsk come boxing day.
However the big kid, with the even bigger hair, believes that he understands what head coach Steve Spott and the world junior brass are watching for.
“I think you just have to be a complete player,” Monahan said.
“You also have to be a great person off the ice, I think that’s what hockey Canada looks for so I just need to continue what I’m doing and hopefully I can be there.”
Despite the lofty projections, the comparisons, and the pressure of the draft year, Monahan simply continues to do what he does best.
Take it from his teammate.
“I don’t think he lets anything get to his head,” said Duchesne.
“He just loves hockey and nothing else matters to him.”