Sean Monahan or Nick Bjugstad?

by Rick Roos



Who would you rather own in your league - Sean Monahan or Nick Bjugstad?


Normally I decide the pairings for Cage Match based on my own research; but I’m always eager to take suggestions from readers in the comments (hint hint….). And sometimes I find inspiration in the DobberHockey Forums - like this week, after a recent thread about Sean Monahan and Nick Bjugstad caught my eye. So let’s decide which of these two is the better fantasy own – Cage Match starts now!

Career Path and Contract Status

Given what he’s already achieved, it’s easy to forget Monahan was drafted less than two years ago (sixth overall in 2013). He proceeded to stick with the Flames for 2013-14 and posted 34 points in 75 games, although 15 of those points came in his first 24 contests before he hit the infamous rookie wall, scoring at a 0.5 points to game rate in only one other subsequent month.

Monahan has shown no signs of a sophomore slump in 2014-15 – on the contrary, as he took only 52 games to equal the 34 points he tallied in 75 contests as a rookie. He’s also been more consistent this season, as in each month he’s scored at or above a 0.5 points per game pace while posting between three and five goals and two and five assists per month. And he’s started March blazing hot, with five points in four games to help keep Calgary’s playoff hopes alive.

Bjugstad was also a first rounder (19th overall in 2010), but played college hockey and on the US World Junior team for the next three seasons, aside from an 11 game taste of the NHL in 2012-13. But by the 2013-14 campaign, he also was in the NHL to stay.

Unlike Monahan, Bjugstad was slow out of the gates as a rookie but ended strong, with only 24 points in his first 53 games and hitting the 0.5 points per game mark just twice in the first five months but then posting 14 points in his final 23 games. And after a terrible start to the current season (one point in his first ten games), Bjugstad proceeded to rattle off 35 points in his next 46 contests.

According to, Monahan is signed through next season on a deal that brings with it a $1.775M cap hit, while Bjugstad counts only $1.1M against the cap this season but in 2015-16 will begin a six year deal with a $4.1M yearly cap figure.


Ice Time (all tables reflect games through March 10th)

Because Bjugstad only played 11 games in 2012-13, we won’t chart his data from that season in any of the tables.



Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)


19:23 (S.M.) – 1st

16:37 (N.B.) – 3rd

2:49 (S.M.) – 2nd

2:16 (N.B.) – 3nd (tied)

0:44 (S.M.) – 7th

0:32 (N.B.) – 7th


15:58 (S.M.) – 7th

16:13 (N.B.) – 7th

2:05 (S.M.) – 4th

2:08 (N.B.) – 8th

0:15 (S.M.) – 11th (tied)

0:20 (N.B.) – 11th


From this, we can see they not only had comparable production for 2013-14 (38 points in 76 games for Bjugstad; 34 in 75 for Monahan) but also uncannily similar Ice Time. Fast forward to 2014-15, and it’s Monahan who’s now receiving 2:32 more productive Ice Time (i.e., Total Ice Time minus SH Ice Time) than Bjugstad, not to mention 25% more PP Ice Time per game.

The natural instinct would be to figure that Bjugstad’s Ice Time is bound to rise in coming seasons given how low it is now, plus the fact that he looks to be a potential star in the making and was inked to a $24.6M deal by the team. But that might not be the case because Florida’s top 25+ game forward in Total Ice Time per game for 2014-15 is Alexander Barkov, at just 17:10 per contest. To emphasize how low that is, consider that only five teams (Bruins, Hurricanes, Rangers, Predators, Canucks) don’t have a single forward who averages more than 19:00 per game, yet each has at least one player who’s getting 1:00+ more per game than Barkov!

And although Florida figures to lose a couple more forwards as UFAs, the highest Ice Time among them (not including recently acquired Jaromir Jagr) is Scottie Upshall at 13:04. So between that and Florida bringing in more players in the offseason to replace those who depart, it’s not like all sorts of Ice Time will fall upon Bjugstad’s lap. And although we saw two weeks ago that forwards can score well without receiving top Ice Time, let’s not kid ourselves – more productive Ice Time is a good thing, and the fact that Bjugstad could remain below 17:00 for the next few seasons is far from ideal.

Meanwhile, at age 20 Monahan is impressively the youngest team leader in Ice Time among forwards for any NHL squad. And despite the reality that Monahan won’t see anything near another roughly three minute jump in productive Ice Time next season like he has in 2014-15, he still could push closer toward 20:00 in Total Ice Time per game and above 3:00 on the PP, which would make it easier to picture further increased production from him based on Ice Time that it would be for Bjugstad.


Secondary Categories




(per game)


(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)


(per game)

PP Points

(per game)


(per game)


0.12 (S.M.)

0.54 (N.B.)

0.54 (S.M.)

2.01 (N.B.)

0.56 (S.M.)

0.41 (N.B.)

2.19 (S.M.)

2.89 (N.B.)

0.22 (S.M.)

0.18 (N.B.)

11.03 (S.M.)

6.85 (N.B.)


0.10 (S.M.)

0.21 (N.B.)

0.56 (S.M.)

1.54 (N.B.)

0.30 (S.M.)

0.30 (N.B.)

1.86 (S.M.)

2.43 (N.B.)

0.09 (S.M.)

0.04 (N.B.)

6.34 (S.M.)

7.22 (N.B.)


Clearly Monahan is a drain on PIM; however, the fact that Bjugstad isn’t even averaging seven FOW per game is just as bad, if not worse considering in Yahoo leagues he’s eligible only as a center. Bjugstad’s Hits are not only outstanding in general (within the top 50 among all forwards), but are more than triple what Monahan produces.

Otherwise, the players are pretty even, except when it comes to Shots, where Bjugstad has a big advantage and, as of March 8th, sat 27th among all NHL forwards. The fact that he shoots so much is a major asset and bodes very well for Bjugstad’s future scoring, considering that 17 of the 26 forwards with more Shots than him this season had already scored 50+ points as of March 8th.


Luck-Based Metrics



Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5x5)

IPP (5x5)

IPP (5x4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5x5)


16.6% (S.M.)

12.0% (N.B.)

1012 (S.M.)

997 (N.B.)

74.2% (S.M.)

72.7% (N.B.)

52.4% (S.M.)

76.9% (N.B.)

44.9% (S.M.)

53.8% (N.B.)


15.7% (S.M.)

8.6% (N.B.)

984 (S.M.)

975 (N.B.)

72.7% (S.M.)

76.7% (N.B.)

46.2% (S.M.)

50.0% (N.B.)

55.0% (S.M.)

52.7% (N.B.)


Seeing this should put a big smile on the faces of poolies who own Monahan. That’s because his two “luckiest” metrics as a rookie were 5x5 IPP and Personal Shooting Percentage, yet lo and behold he’s posting barely higher numbers this season, making it less likely that he was/is unsustainably lucky.

But perhaps the most impressive piece of data for Monahan is his Offensive Zone Starting %, which ranks him in the bottom 25% (213th of 279) among the forwards who’ve played more than 50 games this season. What’s so impressive about that you ask? How about the fact that there are zero forwards who’ve scored more points than him despite having a lower Offensive Zone Starting %. And the lowest Offensive Zone Starting % of anyone with more points than Monahan is Patrice Bergeron, with 46.0%. And after him, you’d have to go all the way up to Joe Thornton at 48.6%! Very impressive, especially for a guy who doesn’t even turn 21 for five more months.

For Bjugstad, only his jump in 5x4 IPP really stands out. But I see that as more a reflection of his skill rather than unsustainable good luck. Simply put - better players will end up with a higher percentage of PP points for teams with a lousy PP, like Florida (26th in PP percentage at 15.5%). Plus, if the team’s PP happens to improve to more middle of the road numbers, then Bjugstad’s 5x4 IPP could shrink without a negative effect on his point output, so it’s a no lose type of situation.


Ownership, Value and Remaining Schedule

In Yahoo leagues, both players are undesirably eligible only as a center, which is the deepest position in fantasy hockey and thus not ideal. Going into the season, Monahan was on the radar of more poolies, being drafted in Yahoo leagues on average as the 60th player with eligibility as a center, while Bjugstad wasn’t even selected among the top 100. But as of now they’re seen as closer in terms of perceived and actual value, with Bjugstad being owned in 34% of all Yahoo leagues and rated as the 38th best center, compared to 44% and 40th for Monahan.

Both Calgary and Florida have 16 games remaining, so neither player enjoys an imbalanced schedule edge for the rest of the regular season. And both are young enough that – barring injury – they should play every remaining game for their clubs.

The only question is whether their productive Ice Times would increase or decrease given that their teams are fighting for their playoff lives. Most likely neither one would see a reduction; however, if that was to happen, it might be to Bjugstad due to faceoffs and Florida having more veterans to lean on.


Who Wins?

If you read this column on a regular basis, you know I don’t tend to make bold predictions about what might happen to a player. But with Monahan, I’d be remiss not to emphasize that the future looks incredibly bright – perhaps brighter than for any player I’ve profiled in the more than 18 months I’ve been writing this column. If you can get Monahan for a reasonable price in a keeper, do it – and I mean do it now. He’s my bet for the NHL’s (and fantasy’s) next young breakout star.

Why do I think this? For a 20-year-old in his second NHL (and pro) season to be leading his team in Ice Time and scoring above a 55-point pace is pretty amazing, but even more so considering it’s been achieved with such a low Offensive Zone Starting %, which can only go up from where it is now. All things considered, I think it’s realistic to predict a huge breakout for Monahan next season, with him possibly threatening or perhaps exceeding the point per game mark. In terms of comparisons, we could be looking at Monahan having a third season at age 21 like John Tavares did in 2011-12, when he posted 81 points in 82 games during what was also his third campaign at that same age.

Monahan’s only weakness (once his offensive zone starting % improves) is his lack of multi-cat prowess, particularly PIM, Shots and Hits, with the latter two being big strengths of Bjugstad. If you own Bjugstad in leagues that count either of those categories, then you’re already seeing him pay nice dividends, as evidenced by him being rated higher than Monahan in Yahoo leagues overall. His points should come eventually, given how much he shoots. And when that happens, he could be an elite multi-cat forward.

If you’re in a points only keeper and not likely to try and win it all next year, then it might be wise to target Bjugstad this summer, as although he likely won’t top 60 points next season he should continue an upward trajectory, which in turn would lead to him costing more to obtain. But using the same logic, those of you in one year leagues should be careful not to overpay to get Bjugstad in your 2015-16 draft, as he might be a trendy “sleeper” pick and thus overvalued.


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