Despite the fact that the Ottawa 67’s have been underachieving this season, Sean Monahan has been nothing short of stellar. The 6’2″, 193-pound centre, who is in his third campaign, has been in the top ten of OHL scoring all season long, leading the 67’s with 36 points (twelve goals, 24 assists) in 24 games so far this year. He has also been the team’s co-captain, wearing the “C” for road games, alternating with Ottawa Senators first-rounder Cody Ceci. The 67’s knew that losing some of their key players, especially Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince and Petr Mrázek was going to put them in a rather precarious position, but they were going to rebuild toward the future.
Ottawa’s woes saw them lose some other key players as the season progressed. Overage defenceman Jake Cardwell was traded to the Belleville Bulls. Goaltender Keegan Wilson, whom the team acquired from the Brampton Battalion during the offseason, was sent to the Guelph Storm. The 67’s brought in Clint Windsor from the Mississauga Steelheads to replace him. Slovak forward Richard Mráz decided that the OHL was not for him and he decided to return home for the balance of the 2012-13 campaign. To make things even more complicated, rumours began swirling about other players possibly out of the nation’s capital, including Monahan, who is expected to be a top-three pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Despite it all, Monahan was doing fantastic. In the first game of the season, he had three points (two goals, one assist). He had recorded points in all but five games, including a trio of other three-point contests and one four-point outing. Monahan was also a key reason why Ottawa had an incredibly successful power play despite their poor record, half of his goals being scored on the man advantage. He had a seven-game point streak to start the season and he also enjoyed an eleven-game point streak from October 18 to November 13, 2012. (He did not record any points on his 18th birthday, October 12 against Mississauga.)
Even though Monahan was consistently putting up points, the 67’s were not doing well. They alternated with the Peterborough Petes for last place in the East Division, the Eastern Conference and even the entire OHL. Monahan’s performance, however, gave the team optimism that they could turn things around.
By November 18, 2012, the 67’s were mired in a horrible losing streak that saw them about to lose their seventh straight game, this time a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the visiting Plymouth Whalers. They were a frustrated bunch and no one seemed to be more frustrated than Monahan. During this game, however, his frustrations appeared to boil over when he laid out Whalers captain Colin MacDonald toward the end of regulation with a hit that involved his (Monahan’s) elbow coming up and catching MacDonald in the face. While Monahan was not penalized for the hit at the time, MacDonald was injured and he laid on the ice for several minutes before teammates helped him to the bench.
Even though supplementary discipline from OHL commissioner David Branch was imminent, Monahan was allowed to play in Ottawa’s next game two days later against the Kingston Frontenacs. In the contest, which the 67’s won 5-3, Monahan recorded a goal and two assists en route to being named second star. The losing streak was over. Not long after, the preliminary NHL Central Scouting rankings were released and Monahan found himself the top-ranked OHL skater. It seemed as though euphoria was abounding.
Then the bubble burst for Monahan.
Just as the 67’s were about to embark on a nine-game road trip, Commissioner Branch rendered his verdict on Monahan’s hit on Colin MacDonald. The 18-year-old was slapped with a ten-game suspension effective immediately. That meant that Monahan would have to miss the entire road trip which saw stops in Oshawa, Guelph, Belleville, Plymouth (perhaps a reprieve of sorts), Saginaw, Windsor, Niagara, Erie and Kitchener. Monahan being suspended also came at the inopportune time that also saw injuries to Tyler Graovac and Brett Gustavsen, two other key forwards, especially Graovac since the Minnesota Wild prospect — who has had injury problems his entire career — was leading the OHL in goal scoring.
When one looks at the schedule for the 67’s, Monahan’s departure could be even more disastrous for the team as a whole than just for him personally. With Monahan being swirled around in several trade rumours this year, the timing could not be any worse, especially based on how the dates match up.
Based on how well he played at the Canada-Russia Challenge during the summer, as well as at the recently completed Subway Super Series, Monahan is a good possibility to attend Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp in Calgary. He will hope to make the team that will try to reclaim gold after two silvers and one bronze in the last three years. Monahan could become the first Ottawa 67 to wear the maple leaf at the World Juniors since Brendan Bell in 2003. The selection camp goes from December 10 to 13. Monahan’s suspension ends on December 14 when Ottawa hosts the Peterborough Petes.
Let us, for argument’s sake, say that Monahan makes Team Canada. Here is where things become complicated — and possibly costly — for the Ottawa 67’s.
The 67’s have their last game before Christmas on December 16 on the road against Oshawa. Monahan would miss that game in preparation for the World Juniors, possibly packing his bags en route to fly to Russia for the tournament. The World Juniors are held between December 26, 2012, and January 5, 2013. During that time, Ottawa has five games: two against Kingston, and singles against Peterborough, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the Barrie Colts. Monahan would miss all of them.
The Ottawa 67’s play their next game after the World Juniors end, remarkably, the very next day. That game, on January 6, is a Sunday road matinee against the Battalion in Brampton, which is actually Monahan’s hometown. There are some instances in which players do emerge playing in their first game after returning from the World Juniors. For example, all four of the Niagara IceDogs who played at the 2012 World Juniors — Freddie and Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome and Mark Visentin — played two days after the tournament ended, a 4-2 home win over the Sarnia Sting. That being said, however, the tournament was held in Canada so the inherent jet lag was not as prominent as it would be for someone returning from Russia.
Not long after the World Juniors end, along comes the OHL trade deadline on January 10, 2013. Rumours have been swirling about Monahan’s future in Ottawa, especially since the team has been underachieving. The whole notion of “short-term pain for long-term gain” could be a key driving force in why Monahan could find himself out of Ottawa but there are still some questions that need to be asked. Who would become captain? Who would step up in his absence? What if Monahan actually does not stick in the NHL next season? For 67’s fans, the answer to the last question would be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if it means that he would not return to Ottawa.
The Ottawa 67’s actually have a road game the day after Trade Deadline Day, a contest against the always-powerful London Knights. With London renowned for acquiring high-end talents at the deadline over the years, especially looking at the John Tavares deal in 2009, is it possible that Monahan could play in that game… but in a Knights uniform? We will have to wait and see.
Time will tell if Monahan is still going to don the barberpole jersey when the dust settles. This all being said, he could very well not make Team Canada after all and return to Ottawa, especially with so many other players doing well around the Canadian Hockey League, the NCAA and even the AHL (yes, I’m looking at you, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins). The competition is going to be fierce, especially up front, and Monahan will have to be on his A game.
But the question still remains: Has this suspension ended Sean Monahan’s time with the Ottawa 67’s?