Of all the prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft playing top-level junior hockey in North America, right wing Anthony Mantha of the Val-d'Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League reached a level all his own.
Mantha was the only draft-eligible player to score 50 goals this season, hitting the number on the final day of the regular season.
The only other players in any top-level North American junior league to score that many were a pair from the Ontario Hockey League -- Reid Boucher of the Sarnia Sting, a New Jersey Devils prospect, who scored 62, and Vincent Trocheck of the Plymouth Whalers, a Florida Panthers draft pick, who had 50.
"I think it means a lot," Mantha said. "For sure, guys can score goals, but none went up to 50. I think it just proves I have the touch, I can be a big scorer in the NHL in the next few years. I'm pretty happy with that."
There was a lot for scouts to be happy about with Mantha's game. The 6-foot-3.75, 190-pound forward had a team-high 89 points to go along with those 50 goals in 67 regular-season games, and he added five goals and 12 points in nine playoff games. He's No. 10 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for this year's draft.
"He's got all the tools to be a scorer," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com. "He's got a good shot, good on-ice vision, plays in any situation. … He's got all the skills, got all the tools to be a star in the NHL."
If Mantha does reach lofty NHL status, he won't be the first member of his family to get there. His grandfather, Andre Pronovost, won four Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens (1957-60).
"There's no words to describe those moments," Mantha said. "It's really the moments that he reminds himself of the most and he tells his sons and grandchildren."
Mantha said occasionally his grandfather would have his championship rings out, but said he never tried them on.
"Never wore it," he said. "I hope I'll get my own in the next few years."
Mantha had 22 goals and 51 points as a rookie in 2011-12 with Val-d'Or, and said he never had a set number of goals as a target this season.
"The number was more points," he said. "I told myself 70, 80 points. Never thought I'd have 50 goals, but I got it. I worked for it. Everything worked out good."
Heading into the December holiday break he had 28 goals, and it was then Mantha realized he was onto something special.
"The games before Christmas, everything went well," he said. "I had 20-something goals, and if I had 20-something goals, the second half I can get another 20-something and I'll try to reach 50, for sure."
He had 40 by the end of January, but hit a bit of a slump in February, scoring five goals in 12 games, and after scoring a goal in his first three games in March to reach 47, he went scoreless in his next three. He went into the final game of the regular season, March 16 at home against the Sherbrooke Phoenix, with 48 goals.
He scored on a penalty shot at 14:23 of the second period to get him to 49, but as time was running out, he was one goal shy of the magic number.
Val-d'Or got a power play with 1:02 left, and Mantha, on his team-high ninth shot on goal, scored No. 50 with 20 seconds left.
"The last game I was at 49, I told myself I can't finish with 49," Mantha said. "I really pushed myself in that last game. I reached 50 when there was 20 seconds left in the game, but better late than never."
He also expanded his game this season, as coaches helped him develop defensively. He said he models his game after Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal, another big, offensive-minded player who has improved his defensive.
"I'm more of a power-play guy, an offensive player," he said. "I have good vision; I have a good shot, also. After Christmas I did a great job on penalty kill, so that helped me out."
NHL teams certainly have taken note. He met with 25 teams at the NHL Scouting Combine, and will have more meetings heading into the June 30 selection process.
"It's going to be exciting, for sure," he said. "For me, my job is over. It's for the teams to choose. The pressure is not really there anymore. It's a great moment in life and I'll have great pleasure down there."
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor