Position: Right Wing
Weight: 225 lbs
Birthplace: Longueuil,Quebec, Canada
Drafted: 2013, 1st round, 20th overall
Current Team: Detroit Red Wings
2017-2018 statline: 80 GP, 24 goals, 24 assists
Anthony Mantha came into the 2017-18 season, his second full season in the NHL, with a lot on his plate and a lot to prove. The previous season saw him struggle with consistency at times and he looked to take that next step into becoming the Red Wings go-to goal scorer.
The season started out quite promising in that respect as he would log 10 goals and 19 points in his first 20 games of the season, putting him on pace to be the Red Wings first 40 goal scorer since Marian Hossa almost a decade ago. Unfortunately, things seemed to change for him after the 19th game of the season, the now somewhat infamous Calgary game, in which he was criticized by some for being overly aggressive during a brawl along (and eventually into) the Red Wings bench with Travis Hamonic.
That criticism appeared to hit Mantha hard, causing him to shy away from playing physical and losing the edge that helped his early season success. He would struggle with consistency for a lot of the rest of the season, just like the rest of the team, as he would only score 14 more goals over the last 61 games.
After the season was over it came out that Mantha struggled with the understanding the guidance/criticism being provided by Jeff Blashill and the coaching staff to the point where he approached Blashill about it. After a long talk and a lot of film study they seemed to be more on the same page about how to communicate/motivate Mantha, and it started to show in his play late in the season (even if the consistency in the stat lines he enjoyed early on did not fully return).
Looking back on his 2017-18 season, as well as his career with the Red Wings so far, one thing stands out with Mantha as his biggest roadblock to fully recognizing his potential in the NHL…his mental toughness. This is by no means a dig at Anthony or to say he is mentally weak, quite the opposite actually. In order to get to the NHL a player has to be strong mentally. Putting in the time on/off the ice for years as a kid through the amateur ranks to be good enough to do the things Mantha did prior to turn pro requires mental fortitude.
Of course, a bucket full of natural talent in a large frame did not hurt him one bit either. The issue, however, has been that because of that natural talent and size he has not faced a ton of adversity, short or long term, before arriving in Grand Rapids a few years back, where he struggled early on with an injury and learning how to play the game alongside seasoned, professional hockey players. When he was going early last season he was almost unstoppable at times. Using his large frame to find ice in front of the net and his soft hands to bury pucks in the net. Then this happened
The criticism seemed to weigh on him so much that he completely avoided the things he found success with early on. The key piece in it all was his decision to go directly to Blashill and talk to him. By doing that he showed that inner strength again and began to dig himself out of that hole. The entire process led to Blashill (somewhat famously now it seems) suggesting Mantha take up boxing in the offseason.
Not so much for the physical aspects of it (I doubt anyone really wants to see Mantha using his hands to punch faces more than scoring goals any time soon) but for the mental aspects, specifically being able to dig deep and find that fortitude to continue fighting (figuratively in this case) and grinding. Unfortunately, he was not able to get the boxing in over the summer but he sounds rested and focused to me.
Looking forward to the upcoming season, Mantha is set to likely take on an even bigger role with the club as they look to continue with the rebuild. With the retirement of Henrik Zetterberg, he will be one of the main people looked at to pick up the offensive slack left by the absence of Zetterberg. He will likely be consistently on the top line with Dylan Larkin, meaning he will have to do that against the opposition’s best forwards every night.
The likely additions of Rasmussen, Zadina and likely linemate Tyler Bertuzzi to the lineup will help alleviate some of the pressure offensively (as well as physically in Bertuzzi’s case) Mantha needs to take the next step forward and become that go to scoring machine that the Red Wings and their fans believe he can be. He looks focused and ready so far, the question remains can he find away to keep that focus even when adversity comes, because it inevitably will at some point.
Do you agree with Anthony Mantha’s ranking?
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Yes, right where he should be
No, he should be higher
No, he should be lower