TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Anthony Mantha rode a tidal wave of confidence into northern Michigan last September.
However, the brilliant skater with the exceptional quick-shot scoring prowess suffered a deflating setback when he fractured his right tibia during the NHL Prospects Tournament.
It was frustrating, for sure, for the 6-foot-5 forward, who blistered the QMJHL for 107 goals in his final two junior seasons at Val-d’Or.
The leg injury postponed Mantha’s pro debut by two months with the Red Wings’ minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids. It’s difficult enough for a player to get a late start to the season, but even more so for someone trying to make the jump from juniors to the American Hockey League.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill likes what he sees in Mantha, who has the tools to be a top-six forward in the NHL. He just needs to continue to work hard and overcome some of his inconsistencies.
“The biggest message that Anthony and I have talked about it just the idea that this is a journey,” said Blashill, who coached Manthan in Grand Rapids last season. “He’s run both sides of the gamut where a year ago the expectations were extremely high. There’s a lot of deserved media hype about him, hype within our own organization about him, and then he went through some things, he got injured twice at critical moments of the year. There where different times he had some struggles and it probably wasn’t as easy as he thought it was gonna be coming in. But this is not the end, it’s just part of the journey. Let’s keep coming. Let’s keep working. Let’s keep finding ways to improve and get better.”
Eventually, Mantha produced 15 goals and 33 points in 62 regular-season games with the Griffins. He also chipped in with two goals and two assists in 16 playoff games.
Mantha will return to Traverse City for the annual prospects tourney and Detroit’s main training camp with hopes of making the club’s 23-man roster. It won’t be easy, but this will be the time for the big winger to prove himself in front of the coaching staff.
“Inner drive and perseverance are the two biggest factors for individual success, in my opinion, and he’s going to have to persevere,” Blashill said. “He’s shown that at different times. He’s gonna have to go to work this summer with that inner drive.”
Now, let’s get to know more about this 20-year-old top prospect:
|Anthony Mantha |
STATUS: Red Wings’ first-round pick – No. 20 overall – in 2013 NHL draft. The 6-foot-5 forward is expected to play in AHL Grand Rapids this season, however, he will be given an opportunity to make the Wings’ 23-man roster out of training camp in September.
DOB: September 16, 1994, in Longueuil, Quebec.
FIRST HOCKEY MEMORY: “going to the outside pond near my house with my dad and my grandfather (former NHLer Andre Pronovost).”
HOCKEY HEROES: “Obviously my grandfather. First of all, he’s a member of my family, so I admire him. Second, he won four Stanley Cups. (Hard to overlook that fact?) Exactly.”
LAST BOOK READ: “I don’t think I ever finished one.”
CURRENT CAR: “A 2015 black Audi.”
FIRST JOB: “Probably selling chocolates one year when I was in high school.”
GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: “With hockey it would be winning in Val-d’Or two years ago. Maybe in cross country when I was in high school, I won every regional that I was a part in. What was your best time?) I did a 3K run in 10:13 when I was in Grade 8 or Grade 9.”
MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “Probably knowing that I actually fractured my tibia. That bothered me a bit.”
FAVORITE UNIFORMS: “I don’t know. Obviously, the Wings, but excluding hockey, the New England Patriots, the old uniforms.”
FAVORITE ARENA: “Probably the Bell Centre.”
CLOSEST HOCKEY FRIENDS: “Double A (Andreas Athanasiou) is one of my good friends, and then Colin Campbell. Both were in Grand Rapids with me last year.”
FUNNIEST HOCKEY PERSON KNOWN: “The goofiest would be Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi), the funniest would probably be him also.”
TOUGHEST COMPETITORS FACED: “Maybe Felix Girard, he played in Milwaukee last year, and he played in the Q for four years. (Why?) He’s so intense. He’s a little like Luke Glendening, so when he plays he plays hard and can’t lose a battle and is always going to be there to block shots.”
MOST MEMORABLE GOAL: “With 51 seconds left in Val-d’Or in Game 7 of the finals, we were winning 3-zero and they came back 3-3, and with less than a minute to play I scored with 51 seconds left.”
FUNNY HOCKEY MEMORY: “I would say Double A after a goal this year chirping the other bench.”
FAVORITE PLAYRS TO WATCH: “Obviously, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, but also (Sidney) Crosby, (Alex) Ovechkin, (Evgeni) Malkin.”
FAVORITE SPORT OUTSIDE HOCKEY: “Golf, I just love being on my own and having four or five hours to myself and just enjoying the weather.”
QUALITIES ADMIRED IN OTHERS: “Honesty, for sure, that’s a No. 1 key.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Probably all of the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies.”
IF NOT A HOCKEY PLAYER, WHAT: “Hope to be a golfer.”
HIDDEN TALENTS: “Swimming.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE: “I’m addicted to candies, any kind. (Like Skittles?) Exactly. (Have them around all the time?) No, I’m trying to keep off, but if there are some laying close I will go and take one or two.”
MOST ATHLETIC TEAMMATE: “Jeff Hoggan was pretty unbelievable for his age.”
PREFERRED JERSEY NUMBER: “I wear No. 8 only because it was one of the last numbers when I started junior and I built a name off of it. I always had a different number, sometimes it was 23 only because my father wore it when he played.”
OFF DAYS: “Obviously in the summer it’s going to be training in the morning and then depending if I’m going on the ice or not and then a round of golf.”
MOST FAMOUS PERSON IN PHONE: “Probably only the guys that are on the GR team.”
FIRST PURCHASE AFTER SIGNING CONTRACT: “Two watches. What kind?) One was a Tesco and one was a Fossil.”
GUILTY PLEASURES: “Xbox. I used to play it a lot. In the summer I don’t have much time, but in the season I do. (Games?) Obviously, I play NHL. There’s ‘Call of Duty’ and there was one game of ‘Zombies’ last year that the whole team in GR was playing together.”
ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO/HAVE BEFORE EVERY GAME: “Tape my sticks, get dressed the same way.”
MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL: “I’m a middle of the day person.”
IF YOU COULD BE SOMEONE’S TEAMMATE FOR A DAY, WHO: “Probably go with Crosby or (Stephen) Stamkos just because I would like to see their routines.”
GO BACK IN TIME MOMENT: “I would go back to the (2013 QMJHL) finals, and enjoy winning again.”
WHAT SCARES YOU: “Snakes and scorpions. (You’ve had encounters with them?) No. No. But I don’t like them and I don’t want to have an encounter with them.”
MOST EMBARRASSING CHILDHOOD MOMENT: “Having long hair. (That was embarrassing?) Whoa, yeah. I was small with long blonde hair, kind of looked like Goldilocks, so yeah, that was pretty embarrassing. (So that wasn’t your choice?) No. (Mom’s choice?) Exactly.”