There it is. After a jaw-dropping season in the QMJHL, with 81 goals in 81 games, Anthony Mantha is officially a Detroit Red Wing. Welcome home, Big Tony.
Anthony Mantha's season was anything but easy. Amidst all of the goal-scoring, Anthony actually played A LOT of hockey for a 19 year old. 81 games total in the QMJHL regular season and playoffs, seven games in the World Juniors, and four games in the Memorial Cup Tournament.. I think it's safe to say that he made his last season as a junior-level player count. Again, that's a lot of hockey even for some NHLers. Excluding the WJC and Memorial Cup, the 6'5, 204 lbs. winger from Longueuil, Quebec finished his season with 158 points in 81 games. Not bad, eh? On top of that, he was named the QMJHL's most valuable player, and won the league scoring title by a land-slide. If you got to tune into any of the QMJHL playoffs, he played a major role in Val-d'Or's gleaming success this season. Val-d'Or went from being 10th place in the league last season, to 3rd this season, and eventually going on to win the QMJHL Championship.
What now? Well he doesn't exactly have a team to go play for now. Both Detroit and Grand Rapids have been eliminated from playoff contention. What I suspect will happen now, is some much needed time off for a kid who has earned it. Literally.. Like, damn. Dude, just take a bow. What a great season, even if it was in the score-happy QMJHL where goals are seemingly dime-a-dozen.
Anthony still has a lot to work on.. Watching him in the Memorial Cup sort of opened up my eyes to this.. He seems to have a habit to stand around and spectate, waiting for the puck to come to him. Thing is, I've seen him go after the puck along the boards and battle for it.. He's damn good at it. He can use his frame to force the puck-carrier to turn it over. Fortunately, all the things that Mantha lacks can be taught. What cannot be taught is his innate ability to put the puck in the net. He's very creative in that sense.. He scores goals on pure instinctive skill, which if handled and developed correctly, can be turned into a serious threat in the NHL.
Mantha will likely spend the offseason training with the Red Wings, and keeping in close contact with Ken Holland and Mike Babcock. As it stands right now, it seems like Kenny and Babs are keeping their minds open to the idea of having Anthony make the final squad come training camp next season. In that sense, Mantha's fate solely lies in his own hands. He's worked hard to get to where he is now, and he's going to have to keep working hard to take it to the next level. I believe he can do that.. He's an extremely humble and devoted athlete. He'll do what it takes. We all remember him saying before last training camp that he thought he could make the team.. Well he didn't, obviously, but he did go on to big things in the QMJHL.
The sky is the limit for Mantha and the Red Wings. The blue-chip prospect has a serious shot at being an NHL player next season. I think we're all hoping to see him play with Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, and from what it sounds like, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock wouldn't want him playing with anyone else.
Here's a pretty neat video from the Memorial Cup with interviews from Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and other Red Wings staff: