Anthony Mantha had a phenomenal year with the Val-d’Or Foreurs and was a goal per game player in the regular season and QMJHL playoffs.
Unfortunately for Val-d’Or and Mantha, his play during the regular season did not translate to success in the Memorial Cup.
After watching Mantha play against Guelph and Edmonton, I can see how “lazy” and “lacks competitive fire” became apart of his scouting profile, but at the same time it seems as if the system that Val-d’Or runs is what makes Mantha look like he is not engaged on the ice.
There were times when he was the last player back into the Foreurs’ defensive zone, even being beaten by the other teams defensemen. Val-d’Or and Mantha might be looking for the quick pass out of the zone to get Mantha on a break-away, but it did not work in the Memorial Cup if that was the case.
On one of the goals scored in the second period by the Guelph Storm, Mantha snail-paced it to the bench as he watched the play going on in the Foreurs’ zone because he was hoping his teammates were going to be able to give him a long pass behind Guelph’s defense. Because Mantha took his time getting off the ice, the Storm were able to find an uncovered man and score.
When he is in his own zone, he is more than a competent defensive player. His defensive abilities show the most when on the penalty kill; he flashes a quick stick to knock the puck away from players and is consistently in the right position.
I asked Mantha if his time on the penalty kill is going to help him make the jump to professional hockey next season.
Anthony Mantha said, “Obviously it is going to be huge, just ice time on the penalty kill helps you out for your five-on-five defensive game and I think I have made a lot of improvements this year on that aspect of my game.
Anthony Mantha credits his defensive improvements to the Val-d’Or Foreurs’ head coach Mario Durocher trusting him to play in all situations and playing on the penalty kill, while the head coach told a different story regarding Mantha’s defensive improvement’s this season.
“No to be honest” said Mario. “The big thing for him is when he came back from training camp in Detroit,I think he played with men and he saw and the touch he has to put his body there. If he wants the puck, he need to body positioning, competing for the puck. I think when he came back he was a different player. So the penalty kill is an asset where you learn to block shots and things like that, but he is a smart player, so that’s not a problem. I think competitiveness of tuning make him a better player and that’s when he came back from Detroit play with men, ‘I want the puck I want the million dollars, so if it is not going to be me it is going to be you and I want it more.’ So that is what you learn I think, to using his big body.”
It was likely a combination of the two and it bodes well for his future in Detroit, which could begin next season if he is able to win a spot during training camp.
The MasterCard Memorial Cup was a disappointment for Anthony Mantha, but the talent he possesses shined through his performance.