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Slapshot Fantasy

Sean Monahan is a second-half fantasy hockey star

It doesn’t usually take much to start a stampede. Something as little as jumping off a horse or lighting a match can set off a herd of cattle.

Calgary, nicknamed the Stampede City, doesn’t have much cattle in the city limits anymore, but that doesn’t mean the metropolitan area has gone free of sudden charges. Apparently it doesn’t take much to get Flames center Sean Monahan rolling as fast as the wildebeest in Lion King (poor Mufasa).

Despite no major changes to his surroundings, the 21-year-old is stampeding his way through the second half of the 2015-16 season.

Monahan has 13 goals and 31 points in 28 games since the All-Star break. With his three-point game on Tuesday, the center has already surpassed his point total from the first half of the year. He had 14 goals and 29 points in 48 games before the break.

February was his best all-around fantasy month as he finished with six goals, 15 points and a plus-five rating in 13 games. His rating in March was a disappointing minus-six, but Monahan continued scoring, registering seven scores and 16 points in 15 games.

No one could have predicted this kind of surge from the pivot. There was a slightly smaller sample size in January because of the All-Star break, but in 11 games, he only had two goals and three points. Monahan has followed up that dismal performance with his best two months of the season.

It’s really hard to tell from a fantasy perspective what is different for Monahan since the break. His scoring percentage is way up (nearly six percent) along with his shots on goal, but his ice time is down over 30 seconds in the second half of the season. He has simply been more efficient with about the same amount of playing time.

And somehow he’s done that despite little change in lines. After the All-Star break, coach Bob Hartley kept Monahan on the same line he’s been on all season with Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler. In February, the line combined to score 42 points in 12 games together.

Of course, there has been one major change to the Flames’ top line since then, as Calgary dealt Hudler to Florida before the trade deadline. But by looking at Monahan’s numbers in March, fantasy owners can clearly see the trade’s had little effect on his performance. Furthermore, Gaudreau hasn’t played in the last two games, yet Monahan has one three-point game and four points total.

With and without his linemates from opening day, Monahan has produced since the All-Star break.

He’s also performed well at home and on the road, which wasn’t happening in the first half. As of March 31, these are his splits at and away from the Stampede City this season.

               G   A   PTS    +/-
Home  12  24   36       10
Away   15   9     24      -16

But since the All-Star break, he’s only played one more home game and those numbers have evened out quite a bit.

              G   A   PTS    +/-
Home   5   12    17       2
Away    8   6      14      -3

Regardless of how many minutes he’s played, who his linemates have been and where the games were located, Monahan has been a much better fantasy asset in the second half. That’s the way he’s been through much of his career.

In almost three full seasons with the Flames, Monahan has 29 goals, 63 points and a even rating in 62 career games after the All-Star game. Before the break, he has 51 goals, 93 points and a minus-18 rating in 170 contests. His goals per game average rises over 10 percent and his points per game increases nearly 50 percent in games during the second half.

Just as some hockey players are perennial fast-starters, there are guys who are notorious second-half players. Monahan appears to be the latter.

Owners who draft the 21-year-old next season should keep this in mind. Don’t give up on him halfway through 2016-17 even if he is averaging about 0.5 ppg. If history repeats itself, he will turn it on after the break.

But the owners who don’t draft Monahan can use this bit of information too. Assuming he gets off to another slow start this fall, there might be a buy-low opportunity before Monahan begins his second-half stampede.

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