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Mantha leads list of Red Wings' top 10 prospects

Wednesday, 08.20.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Mantha leads list of Red Wings' top 10 prospects
Scoring sensation Anthony Mantha is at the top of the list of Detroit Red Wings prospects that could make an impact in the 2014-15 season and years to come.

To say the Detroit Red Wings struggled with injuries last season is putting the deluge of trips to the trainer's room lightly.

However, there was a silver lining to all the ailments. It meant 12 rookies got into the lineup at some point, including nine who made their NHL debuts. It might not have been ideal, but general manager Ken Holland, coach Mike Babcock and their staffs got ample opportunity to see what the future could look like.

"It was a great learning experience about our prospects," Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer said. "We got a firsthand glimpse of what guys can really do. Thanks to so many injuries and so many voids to be filled in one season, we really got to learn about our guys, what they potentially can bring at the next level."

Here's a look at the Red Wings' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Anthony Mantha, RW

Anthony Mantha was the only draft-eligible 50-goal scorer in the Canadian Hockey League in his draft year. (Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI)

How acquired: 1st round (No. 20), 2013 draft

Last season: 57 GP, 57-63-120, plus-34, Val-d'Or, QMJHL

It's been 15 years since the Detroit Red Wings have had a player jump from junior hockey to the NHL, but the 19-year-old Mantha could be the first since Fischer did it in 1999. After being the only draft-eligible 50-goal scorer in the Canadian Hockey League in his draft year, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound forward was even better last season, leading the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in goals and then scoring 24 times in 24 QMJHL playoff games.

"I love the way he plays," Fischer said. "He's got tools that you probably cannot teach. His hockey sense, to find the space, to get open, to jump on loose pucks with poise and composure; it's unparalleled with his peers. He's unique. He's fun to watch. The bigger the games, the bigger he plays, the bigger his performance, the more he wants to win. He loves playing games.

"He knows that he's going to get a chance [at training camp]. He's going to get a top-six forward chance in camp and he's excited about it. … He knows this is the situation he wants to be in and that's a great sign."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Xavier Ouellet, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 48), 2011 draft

Last season: 70 GP, 4-13-17, Grand Rapids, AHL

It was a season-long learning experience for the 21-year-old, ranging from the high of his first NHL games to the low of being a 10-minute per game player at times in the American Hockey League. However, the Red Wings never lost faith because they never saw Ouellet (6-1, 190) get down on himself or stop working.

"To ride the high of being in the NHL and then feeling almost like a castaway in the American Hockey League by ice time decreasing, it was tough," Fischer said. "But credit to him. By the end of the year, he was a call-up and he got to play in the end of the year. He's so mentally strong and he wants it so much. Every time somebody makes a point about his weakness, he wants to get better. He takes it as a challenge."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

3. Teemu Pulkkinen, LW

How acquired: 4th round (No. 111), 2010 draft

Last season: 71 GP, 31-28-59, Grand Rapids, AHL

In his first season in North America, the 22-year-old forward tied for fourth in the AHL in goals, was second among first-year players in points and earned a three-game NHL call-up. However, Fischer believes nerves might have gotten the best of Pulkkinen (5-11, 183), as he had four shots on goal but no points.

"I saw a game in Detroit and he shot everything that came to him," Fischer said. "He wasn't in his comfort zone. I watched him three years prior in Finland and in the American league. He scores, he makes plays. In the NHL, he was trying to shoot, put everything on net. The next time around when he gets called up we're going to see more settling into what he's going to become eventually."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Andreas Athanasiou, C

How acquired: 4th round (No. 110), 2012 draft

Last season: 66 GP, 49-46-95, Barrie, OHL

The 20-year-old forward rose to prominence thanks in part to his dazzling puck tricks, but his game finally has matched his puck wizardry. As the 6-0, 177-pound forward moves to Grand Rapids of the AHL this season, it's about finding a consistency of effort.

"The bigger the moment, the more he wants the puck, the more he wants to be on the ice, the more he wants to produce," Fischer said. "Most of the time he does it. Now to get to those big moments he has to be good all the time. … Knowing every moment is a big moment in his head is a key for him to be successful in the pros."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

5. Ryan Sproul, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 55), 2011 draft

Last season: 72 GP, 11-21-32, Grand Rapids, AHL

The 6-3, 185-pound defenseman played well enough in his first pro season to earn a one-game NHL call-up. An offensive dynamo during his junior days, the 21-year-old continued that with Grand Rapids, finishing second among rookie defensemen in points. He also improved his defensive-zone play.

"He turned pro with a label of super-talented, high-end offensive defenseman, but also with a label that he doesn't play hard enough in the [defensive] zone and he likes to do things by himself," Fischer said. "By the end of the season in Grand Rapids, he played well in the [defensive] zone and there was nothing selfish about his game. … This year when he comes to camp he knows he has a chance. He knows that the Red Wings are starving for a right-hand shot defenseman and he has a chance."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

6. Dylan Larkin, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 15), 2014 draft

Last season: 60 GP, 31-25-56, USA U-18, USHL

A native of Waterford, Mich., the 6-1, 190-pound forward won't be far from home, or Red Wings management, as he starts at the University of Michigan in the fall.

"As soon as he steps on the ice, wheels are moving 100 miles per hour and they don't stop until he's changing," Fischer said of the 18-year-old. "He's a naturally high-energy guy, yet can balance it with poise and can slow the game down when it's necessary. His ability, his natural stride, is a great asset. He's smart, he makes plays. … He's an athlete. He's a guy that likes to play games. Fun in the locker room; quiet but very competitive."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

7. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 58), 2013 draft

Last season: 29 GP, 10-25-35, Guelph, OHL

Head and neck injuries sustained in a fight in December sidelined the 6-0, 178-pound forward until the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, but the 19-year-old returned in fine form. He had 10 goals and 17 points in 18 OHL playoff games and led all players at the Memorial Cup with five goals in four games.

"All he did in the playoffs was he kept scoring," Fischer said. "Not being on the first line, some games not being on the second line, not being on the first power play, he found a way around the net. … He's just very good in tight, down low."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

8. Zach Nastasiuk, RW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 48), 2013 draft

Last season: 62 GP, 23-28-51, Owen Sound, OHL

Summary: The 19-year-old was rewarded for a strong junior season with five games with Grand Rapids at the end of the regular season. The 6-1, 190-pound forward was so good there he stayed in the lineup during the Calder Cup Playoffs.

"Anytime a coach has a message for him it never has to be repeated," Fischer said. "He hears it, he takes it in, he works on it, he gets better at it and he moves on to the next thing. He's a great leader. … Being great defensively, being responsible, taking care of the puck, not turning it over, not trying to get attention by swinging for the home runs every time he touches the puck, making simple plays. That's why he played for so long in the playoffs in Grand Rapids."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

9. Jake Paterson, G

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 80), 2012 draft

Last season: 45 GP, 24-18-2, 3.41 GAA, .906 save percentage, Saginaw, OHL

It was a difficult season for Paterson (6-1, 176) on and off the ice. There was the tragic death of Saginaw teammate Terry Trafford as well as personal disappointment playing for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. Now the 20-year-old has to work through a thick depth chart to earn a job in the AHL as he starts his professional career.

"He got the message at the evaluation meetings from Ken Holland that he has to take somebody's job in [training] camp," Fischer said. "We have Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustafsson, Petr Mrazek, Thomas McCollum and Jared Coreau under contract. He's going to have to take someone's job. He knows it and I know his personality. He's going to work his butt off this summer and do everything he possibly can and he's going to have to do it in the camp, which is a perfect situation to create more competitiveness within the organization."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

10. Mattias Janmark, C

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 79), 2013 draft

Last season: 45 GP, 18-12-30, AIK, SWE

The 21-year-old had a great start to the season with 16 goals through late December, but an illness slowed him down. However, the Red Wings liked what they saw in the 6-1, 189-pound forward during a late-season stint in the AHL and see a lot of promise.

"He's going to play for Frolunda [in Sweden] and play most likely on their top line in an environment where they're regarded as one of the top five teams in the league going into the season," Fischer said. "It's a very good situation."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

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