The contrast between the environment Ottawa 67's star Sean Monahan plays in and those of fellow top NHL draft prospects Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones is unmistakable. It's so obvious I wondered if anyone needed to have it pointed out, honestly.
In every draft class, there are players whose gifts seem all the more awesome since they are doing it on a dominant team. Others toil away with a bottom-feeder. It can lead to criticism because it is Clichés 101 that a great player makes everyone around him better. It might also led to being overlooked or downgraded when people make draft rankings, since being out of sight can lead to being out of mind.
Jones' Portland Winterhawks are the favourite to win the MasterCard Memorial Cup. Drouin, MacKinnon and their Halifax Mooseheads have clinched the Quebec League regular-season title three weeks in advance, although they might not have the depth or experience to win the Memorial Cup. Each powerhouse seems to have a teeming bandwagon in its home market.
Monahan's situation could have been been cooked up in the Ironic Punishment Division: take an 18-year-old centre who might be close to NHL ready and have him play home games in a NHL arena that will be empty for weeknight game and feel anything but homey to his displaced OHL team. (I forget who said it, but the line is that the 67's have 68 road games.) No one wanted it to happen this way, but it just so happened the 67's began rebuilding at roughly the same point that owner Jeff Hunt moved his team from the Ottawa Civic Centre to Scotiabank Place so the revitalization of the Lansdowne Park site could proceed.
That hurts the wow factor. But when one scouting service ranked Monahan eighth for the draft earlier this month — third among OHLers, after two hulking defencemen, Sault Ste. Marie's Darnell Nurse and London's Nikita Zadorov — it was a head-scratcher.
Last weekend kind of proved the point. One could just point out that Monahan, with 26 goals and 69 points in 50 games, is still a top-15 scorer in the OHL despite a 10-game suspension and despite not being complemented by top-notch talent. Then you take in what happened over the last two games. Monahan went out with back injury after crashing heavily into the boards in the first period on Friday when Ottawa lost to the Oshawa Generals and was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 1995, which was back when Ottawa coach-GM Chris Byrne was still an active junior player.