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Polarizing Mantha can do it all offensively

Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 2:12 p.m. under 2013 Draft Coverage
Anthony Mantha

There weren’t many 2013 draft prospects more polarizing among NHL scouts than Anthony Mantha. Some see a future top-line NHL sniper, others brushed him off as a skilled but lazy winger whose competitiveness doesn’t cut it.

The Detroit Red Wings lean more toward the former than the latter and went for the home-run pick on Sunday when they selected the 6-foot-4, 190-pound left-winger with their first-round pick, 20th overall, after trading down from the No. 18 slot.

Mantha was the top goal-scoring prospect in the entire draft, leading the QMJHL with 50 goals while taking a league-high 323 shots, showcasing the deft touch and tremendous shooting ability that could make him a top-line NHLer half a decade from now.

“I saw him a couple of times where he was dominant,” said Red Wings scout Jeff Finley. “He takes the puck wide and can beat defensemen, take it to the net … he has a knack for finding open ice and he has a good shot and release. I wouldn’t label him as just a scorer, either. He’s creative and he can see the ice and make plays. He’s a gifted all-around offensive player.”

TSN scout and former NHL general manager Craig Button went as far as to compare Mantha to Pittsburgh Penguins 40-goal-scorer James Neal and the Red Wings would be overjoyed if Mantha panned out that well.

There’s very little not to like about him in the offensive zone.

“I like the size, the skating — he’s got lots of speed and mobility for a big guy — he can shoot on the fly and his hockey sense is good,” said Red Wings scout Mario Marois. “He can play any style he wants offensively. He is very good down low, too. He has a good shot, he protects the puck well.”

But the knocks on Mantha come fast and furious from some scouts. One told The Hockey News under cover of anonymity that “he’s not the most eager kid. Some nights you wonder where the intensity is.” Piled on Red Line Report chief scout Kyle Woodlief via USA Today: “Does this guy even have a pulse? Plays with absolutely zero fire or passion.”

The Red Wings don’t deny Mantha has some work to do in terms of his intensity on a shift-to-shift basis and also on playing in his own zone.

“He’s not perfect, but sometimes (top junior) players play a lot of minutes … and they cheat,” Marois said. “That’s probably what happened with him at times. He was up north in Val-d’Or (Quebec) and they have long bus rides … so sometimes he cheats. That will be for us to take care of those flaws and make sure he’s improving all the time.”

Val-d’Or, as Marois points out, is one of the most remote locations in the QMJHL, almost a six-hour drive from Montreal and another two hours to Quebec City. There’s no doubt it takes its toll on a young player over a 68-game schedule.

The Red Wings are comfortable enough with Mantha that they believe he’ll be able to iron out the kinks in his game. Because he has a late birthdate, he’ll play just one more year in the QMJHL with Val-d’Or before being eligible to play in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

If everything goes according to plan, he’ll be filling the net for the Red Wings half a decade from now.

“He brings a pretty good package,” Marois said. “I think this kid’s got real good upside for the Red Wings.”

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24 Comments
  1. Nick A says:

    He should play in GR next year, not juniors. It has rarely worked out when a player taken in the draft plays another year of juniors. They need a higher level of competition to develop. Sending this kid back will make him a man among boys and hardly encourage him to increase his intensity level. Having to face a higher level of competition in the AHL is exactly what he need to learn that he needs to pick up his level of play in order to compete at higher levels.

  2. Nick A says:

    OK, never mind. I didn’t read the part about being too young for the AHL. Still think he should be there, though.

  3. scott gordinier says:

    anything on Mikhail plotnikov ? I herd that we signed him as a free agent ? any info please?

  4. ScottD says:

    Hey S. gordinier go to eliteprospects.com I think that is the website. He played in Russia for several years. He played for the Indiana Ice last year also. Some people believe he is friends with Marchenko.

  5. scott gordinier says:

    ok thanks scott d so he looks like another steal for us …

  6. ScottD says:

    One can only hope that is true gord.

  7. Shawn says:

    Yeah, Plotnikov played on the same team as Marchenko in the MHL, so they must be friends. Plotnikov’s stats aren’t exactly explosive; I wouldn’t get too excited that we “stole” anything… he’s probably going to the camp at Marchenko’s request.

  8. Shawn says:

    I read today that Holmstrom is going to be a counselor at the development camp and do a little instruction on “net-front presence”… I’m SUPER pleased to hear that and I hope he wants to continue to instruct the professionals on net-front presence as well. I hope he works with guys like Miller, Abby, Franzen, Sheahan, Tootoo, etc. (Cleary if he’s signed).

    First day of development camp (and once again, I’m not in TC… I need to retire)… Looking for some good reporting out of TC tonight! I know there’s a female journalist that covers camps up there, but I can’t remember her name/ website… anyone know who I’m talking about?

  9. Daryl says:

    Shawn – I think you’re looking for Sarah Lindenau at http://www.theleftwinglock.com/



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