Red Wings

Red Wings’ prospect Anthony Mantha continues to tear up juniors, but is he ready for the NHL next season?

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Anthony Mantha continued his all out assault on juniors the other night only this time it was on the National stage as his hat-trick helped propel Team Canada to a 7-2 victory over Germany in the opening night of the IIHL World Junior Championships.

Yeah Canada was expected to beat Germany but the bigger question is… who is Anthony Mantha?

Mantha is a name Red Wings fans might want to start familiarizing themselves with because you may start to see a lot of him sooner rather than later.

The 20th overall pick by the Wings in the 2013 NHL Draft, Mantha by all intents and purposes is a pure goal scorer, but that may in fact be an understatement.

So far this season with Val-d’Or i of the QMJHL, Mantha has been an unstoppable offensive force netting 35 goals, 38 assists and 73 points in just 32 games played. And it’s not like those numbers are totally fluky. Last year Mantha had 50 goals, 39 assists and 89 points in 67 games while the previous year he had 22 goals, 29 assists and 51 points in 63 games played.

Obviously these are ridiculous numbers and perhaps worthy of some speculation as to where Mantha will be playing next season. Better yet could he find himself with the Winged Wheel on his chest once the 2014-15 NHL regular season gets underway?

As it stands right now it’s still not in the Wings’ nature to have a guy go from juniors to the NHL with the flip of a switch.

Sure his numbers are extremely impressive but there’s some aspects to Mantha that aren’t quite working in his favor yet, one of which is his age.

Once next season rolls around Mantha will be 20 years old and certainly open for much more development at the next level which seems likely could be the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. And when it comes to that development Mantha is without a doubt a killer in the offensive zone however it’s the two other zones that’s going to need to get better if he wants to be a super star in the NHL.

Team Canada’s head coach Brent Sutter commented on just this Thursday night after his team’s victory:

“It’s simple. It’s being a competitor in all three zones and making sure he’s responsible in all three zones. Not just for this tournament, but for him to be a good pro. Especially with the organization he’ll go to in Detroit. That’s what they expect there. You can’t just play the offensive side of the puck.”

There have also been some questions on Mantha’s consistency and effort level on the ice. He’ll definitely need to learn to keep his feet moving and give a full effort on all ends of the ice at the NHL level.

Then there’s the aspects of the Red Wing organization itself.

TMSNX NHL writer Aaron Eggemeyer believes that even with the amount of expiring contracts for the Red Wings there’s still just too many NHL ready forwards within the Wings’ system that are primed and ready. Guys who we’re already seeing like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan will likely have a good shot at making the team next season while others like Teemu Pulkkinen, Landon Ferraro and Martin Frk still may find themselves ahead of Mantha in the prospect depth charts.

Then aside from the players in front of Mantha there’s the whole philosophy within the Red Wings front office regarding prospects.

Ken Holland and the Red Wings aren’t an organization that’s going to expedite players from juniors or even the minors to the NHL. Holland has often mentioned that he expects a majority of his prospects to spend a few seasons in the juniors or minors while tracking to make their NHL debuts 4 to 5 years after they’ve been drafted.

“I think you have to have some luck. You have to be lucky to get success,” Holland first replied.

“I think we like skills, we don’t draft projects. Also, because we have a good team, we don’t have to rush anybody, we let the players develop at their own pace. We can afford to be patient with the prospects. We believe it is better to let the players develop correctly, to complete their junior level and eventually play in the AHL or with their European team before playing with the Red Wings. For example, Zetterberg was a very good hockey player, he was 5’10 and only 165 lbs and then grew up a little bit. He was the Rookie of the year in the Swedish League. We left him there one more year, he won the MVP Award there and played at the Olympics,” Holland pointed out.

“Another thing that helps us is the fact that our staff has worked together for a long time. Our Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell has worked with us since 1992 or 1993, Hakan Andersson, our European Chief Scout, has been with us since 1989, my assistant Jim Nill, with whom I have played for the Medicine Hat Tigers back in the mid 1970′s has been with us for 14 years now and (Senior VP) Jim Devellano is part of the team’s direction since the beginning of the 1980′s. Working together for so long time helps us build a chemistry, it helps us to stick to our philosophy based on selecting skilled players that want to compete and want to play hard,” (Hockey’s Future)

All this though doesn’t necessarily mean though that Mantha won’t be with the Wings next season at least at some point. Aaron Eggemeyer pointed out that there’s a chance he could in fact be a mid season call up or a Black Ace once the playoffs roll around. Then there’s always that chance that he forces Holland and Babcocks hand in training camp and the preseason forcing them to keep him on the main roster.

Either way the exciting years from Mantha are sure to at least come within the next four to five years. He’s a true sniper in the making, something the Wings haven’t had in their lineup since Marian Hossa. And with the right players around him there’s no reason not to believe he could score around 40 goals a season once the experience sets in.

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