Fans of the Detroit Red Wings were finally treated to seeing former first-round draft pick, Anthony Mantha, suit up for his first official NHL regular-season action during the 2015-2016 campaign. Mantha, who is undoubtedly Detroit’s top/most coveted prospect, will be looking to take the next step in his professional hockey career during the 2016-17 season.
Before Dylan Larkin skated his way into all of our hearts and shattered the mold of traditional Red Wings’ rookie development last season, there was Anthony Mantha. The drafting of the 6’5” Mantha at 20th overall by the Red Wings in 2013 created a hype that hadn’t been seen in Hockeytown in quite some time. Anthony is a large-bodied winger who comes from the famous Pronovost family and possesses the ability to score a lot of goals.
Considering both his skill and pedigree it wasn’t shocking that Jeff Blashill and the Red Wings chose to call Mantha up to the big-league as the Wings were slumping late in the season last year. In ten games with the Red Wings last season, Anthony accumulated two goals, one assist and a minus six rating. Neither of Mantha’s goals were beauties by any means, but they both came against his hometown team and Detroit’s Original Six Rival, the Montreal Canadiens, so you have to love that.
Putting Anthony’s brief stint in Detroit last year aside, it was in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins where Mantha truly shined in 2015-2016. In 60 regular-season games played with the Griffins last season Anthony tallied 21 goals and 24 assists while finishing with a plus 13 rating. He also had a strong showing during the postseason as well, netting four goals and seven assists in nine playoff games.
Heading into the 2016-2017 season the real question for Anthony Mantha is, where will he start? It’s no secret that the Red Wings currently have a logjam of forwards and with Mantha being wavier exempt this year, it would be a safe bet that Mantha will probably start his 2016-17 season in Grand Rapids. A strong training camp combined with a standout exhibition performance could solidify Mantha a starting roster spot with the Red Wings on opening night, but given Detroit’s player-development history, it’s not something I foresee happening.
Personally, I’d love to see Mantha follow in the footsteps of players like Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou by making the jump to the NHL, but I see forward positions being hard to come by in Detroit with the signings of Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott. We all know how loyal Ken Holland and the Red Wings are to veteran players, for better or for worse.
Even if having Mantha start the season in the AHL is the best option , I do believe we will see Anthony in a Red Wings’ uniform at some point during the 2016-17 season. If Detroit displays even half of the inconsistency and lackluster play in the upcoming season that they did in 2015-2016, I don’t think Jeff Blashill will think twice about throwing Mantha into the mix.
With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk and the wear and tear on Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings will soon be forced to face and address several issues on the front-end, and Anthony Mantha can and will most likely be the answer to some of the questions, whether it’s sooner or later.