Anthony Mantha was the Red Wings first selection in the 2013 entry level draft, taken in the first round with the 20th pick. Mantha stands at 6’5″ and weighs 204 pounds. He’s a big dude, and growing putting on 15 pounds since the beginning of the year.
Mantha plays in the QMJHL for the Val D’Or Foreurs where he put together a really nice campaign last year scoring 89 points in 67 games, his 50 goals led the league. Despite his high production, scouts were very divided on how projectable his skills are going into the NHL. The common, but not universal, knocks on him pre-draft were that he was shift-to-shift player with a low compete level who was somewhat one-dimensional in the offensive zone.
The Wings scouts felt differently, and they grabbed him anyway. This season he has 90 points in 42 games with 43 goals. He is averaging just over 2 points per game and he is on pace to get more points than anyone else in the Q, including top 3 draft selection Jonathan Drouin. Mantha has matured his game quite a bit in the last year. He has become a more complete player, being more responsible defensively(but still has a long ways to go) as well as being more aggressive on the forecheck to get loose pucks and force problems.
Mantha played fantastic hockey in the WJC. In 7 games he scored a team leading 5 goals and 6 assists. His 5 goals ranked him second in the tournament and his 11 points put him 4th on the list. Mantha solidified his place as an elite prospect during the WJC. He was highly effective and productive and was able to continue to play the same game he had been in the Q against more talented opposition. One of the reasons prospects don’t work out is because their skills don’t translate to higher levels of hockey. This is a very promising step for Mantha.
At the WJC he praised for being a very coachable player who responds well to criticism and is able to improve and tweak his game quickly. The Wings run a very rigid system which at times can butt heads with certain playing styles(see Jiri Hudler) but if a player can adapt their game to many systems and listen to coaching then he will have a smoother transition to pro hockey.
Mantha boasts an absolute killer shot, has decent hands to beat defenders one on one as well as having dynamic puck speed. He has the potential to be a true sniper, drawing draft day comparisons to players like Rick Nash and James Neal. Mantha projects to the NHL pretty well. He has great positioning putting himself in the right place to score. Mantha goes hard to the net and with his size advantage in the Q he is able to outmuscle smaller and younger players to get goals. He was reluctant to do this last year but with his added bulk he is much more comfortable traversing across the entire offensive zone, making him much harder to control and contain. The diversification of his offensive abilities is the main reason for his increase in offensive production.
Despite what a lot of people will say, Anthony Mantha is nowhere near ready to play in the NHL yet. He will most likely need two years in Grand Rapids to strengthen both his defensive and transitional game before becoming an NHLer. He is in a unique place right now because he is the biggest and strongest player on the ice. Expect him to struggle quite a bit for a while while he adjusts to the AHL, a faster, bigger, and more talented style of hockey, similar to the way both Jurco and Frk did last year and this year respectively.