Born: September 16, 1994 (22 years old)
Birthplace: Longueuil, Quebec, CAN
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 214 lbs.
Drafted: 2013, 1st Round, 20th Overall, Detroit Red Wings
Mantha had a pretty productive first season with the Red Wings after being called up in early November from the AHL. The towering forward appeared in 60 games, amassing 17 goals and 36 points in that span, good enough for sixth on the team. It wasn’t until his promotion to the top line alongside captain Henrik Zetterberg that the 22-year-old really found his scoring touch and he was a fairly reliable offensive source on a team that finished 26th in the league with just 198 goals for. Mantha will be relied upon again this season to bring some offensive punch up front, considering forward Thomas Vanek and his 38 points in 48 games in Detroit won’t be returning.
Aside from the obvious being his size up front, Mantha is a great skater that also possesses a quick release on his shot. Often a mismatch down low with his big frame, he could be the force in front of the net that the Red Wings desperately need on the powerplay -- a hole that has sat vacant since Tomas Holmstrom’s retirement. Mantha has the ability to be an elite power forward in the NHL and with his soft hands in tight, a 25-goal season might not be out of the question. After all, this is a forward that has scored at every level he’s played at, including a pair of 50-goal seasons in junior and 44 goals in 132 career games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. If he can build on his 0.33/GPG rate, then the Red Wings may have themselves a star at the NHL level.
The biggest knock on Mantha is his play in the defensive zone and this was a problem throughout junior and during his arrival in the AHL. One thing I would like to see more of from him this season is an added physicality to his game because the one trap you would hate to see him fall into is that late-career Johan Franzen-like softness. While Franzen put up consistent offensive numbers, at times he wasn’t as opposing of a force as he could have been when on the forecheck. That is something Mantha will have to work on this year, applying pressure on the opposing defenders and forcing them into mistakes with the puck in their own end. The 22-year-old has shown improvement in his defensive end with the puck and this was definitely something that held him back from a more prolonged call up in 2015-16 (he appeared in just 10 games with Detroit). Improved awareness in his own end will go a long way into making him that solid two-way talent that the organization has always coveted at the forward position.
A Look Ahead:
Moving forward the one thing to keep an eye on with Mantha will be his ability to adapt to playing with other forwards in the top six in the future. As mentioned before, a lot of his scoring success was attributed to his time with Zetterberg and we all saw last season how much line shuffling head coach Jeff Blashill did to try and light an offensive fire under this lineup. If the Wings continue to struggle putting the puck in the back of the net out of the gate, expect more of the same juggling from Blashill as he didn’t get the type of offensive production out of forwards Dylan Larkin (17 goals) and Gustav Nyquist (12 goals) he would have liked. How much of that production dip last season was due to the juggling, it’s possible? But, Mantha needs to be the offensive force that the Wings drafted him to be in the first round of 2013 and that includes in all situations. Blashill would be wise to keep the young forward with the captain purely for developmental reasons and a scoring punch. If he does, then Mantha could be the new Franzen (or better) in Hockeytown.