Detroit Red Wings: Anthony Mantha Heating Up in Grand Rapids


Anthony Mantha, The Detroit Red Wings former top-prospect is catching fire in the AHL and may soon crack the lineup in Detroit.

Remember Anthony Mantha? The QMJHL superstar whose final seasons with the Val d’Or Foreurs compared to those of Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemiuex?

Anthony Mantha, the kid whose performance in Grand Rapids last year left senior vice-president Jim Devellano “very, very disappointed”? The same former top-prospect for the Red Wings who Dylan Larkin made us all temporarily forget about.

Mantha, 20th-overall pick by the Red Wings in 2013, lit a fire under the butts of fans (in a good way) as he was headed for seemingly-sure stardom in the form of a dominant power winger, and the prophecy was written before he even finished his junior career. He played three seasons for the Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL, scoring 129 goals for 260 points in 187 regular-season games. His most impressive season was his draft year of 2013-14, where he notched 57 goals in as many games, accompanied with 63 assists.

Upon completion of his stellar junior hockey campaign, Mantha hit the ice in Traverse City for the Detroit-hosted Prospect Tournament in September of last year. Before Mantha could show his repertoire against opposing talent of roughly the same age, size and skill, he suffered a tragic leg injury, fracturing his tibia and missed main camp along with a good chunk of the AHL season.

Things are tough enough for a guy coming out of a boy’s league trying to make it in a men’s league without breaking your leg and letting everyone else get a head start. It was possible he could make the Wings, but more realistically he was destined for the AHL, which is still a pro league with a monstrous learning curve that is too often forgotten by players,  fans, media and even management. Mantha later squeezed into the Griffins’ lineup, and finished the season with a quiet 15 goals for 33 points in 62 games in the regular season, and only 4 points in 16 playoff games.

Although nobody should have reasonably expected Mantha to knock in rubber at a goal-per-game pace, it’s hard to not be a bit let down by his rookie campaign, even when considering the learning curve and his injury. However, perspective is key; take a look at Tomas Tatar. He and Gustav Nyquist have heavily led Detroit’s scoring for the past 3 seasons, and his rookie year boasts only 16 goals and 16 assists in 58 games without a horrific injury to start.

Mantha’s 2015-16 season started off a bit slow as well- slow, but better. The Griffins as whole started out rotten, losing their first five games. Before missing four games due to concussion protocol, he had two goals and seven assists in 13 games, with improved hustle, defense and overall game strategy.

Now, as the Griffins are on a roll, we’re might be seeing the Anthony Mantha we’ve been waiting for. He has three goals and five assists in his last four games, and with a well-oiled team rising around him, he’s churning his legs and moving the puck, rounding out his game under new head coach Todd Nelson. The elements of a player’s game that don’t show up on the score sheet are oftentimes just as important as those that do.

After nearly 100 AHL games, Mantha may have an opportunity to show his progress to the NHL:

After losing Teemu Pulkkinen and Drew Miller to injury a few games ago, the Red Wings have been carrying only 12 forwards on the roster. Blashill doesn’t seem like the type to call up a prospect to have them sit, so we will likely see either Tomas Jurco or Joakim Andersson ride the pine in place of a Griffin. Jeff Blashill watched the Griffs’ 3-2 victory last night over the Lake Eerie Monsters, which showcased Mantha scoring two goals, including the game-winner on a semi-breakaway.

Next: Help Make Dylan Larkin A 2016 NHL All-Star

This is his chance to restore the faith the organization once had in him. The kid has great hands and an unteachable knack for scoring. When he gets his feet moving, he can move quite fast given his frame, which is another valuable asset. Not every prospect will pan out, and every pick has a chance of being a bust, but Mantha has a great deal of upsides that are often overlooked due to the lofty expectations given to him. He’s heating up, and now is as good a time as any to get him some NHL action.

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