DETROIT – The youth movement that began in the Red Wings’ organization last season is only looking brighter.
Forward Anthony Mantha, Detroit’s first overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, took over the QMJHL during the 2013-14 season, leading the league with 57 goals and 120 points in just 57 games. The 6-foot-4 right wing earned both the Michel Briere Trophy (the league’s most valuable player) and the Jean Beliveau Trophy (top regular-season scorer) while leading his team, Val-d’Or, to its first division championship in seven years.
“He's taken over the Quebec league,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “In Val d'Or, they have a fantastic power play. In the Subway Series, he played for Team Quebec. He was on the bubble for the Canadian World Junior team, even though he led the Quebec League in scoring by 25 percent more than the next guy at the time.
“I saw him play in the Subway Series. In the first game, he had a goal and an assist. The next game, he scored another goal on the power play. Then he makes the World Junior roster and he leads Team Canada in scoring in the tournament.”
Mantha played in 63 games with the Foreurs in his first full year in 2011-12 and represented Canada at the 2012 U18 World Junior Championship, earning 22 goals and 29 assists.
The forward was Val-d'Or's second-leading scorer during his second season, ranking first in the QMJHL with 50 goals and had 39 assists in 67 games. The Foreurs reached the second round in the playoffs after finishing fourth in the West Division.
Mantha scored five goals with seven assists in nine playoff games.
“He's just a big, strong, 6-foot-4 guy who holds on to the puck under pressure in the offensive zone,” Fischer said. “Month after month, week after week, he just keeps proving that he is a dominant offensive power forward. I'm really excited about him turning pro next year.”
The Red Wings will bring Mantha, 19, up to the Grand Rapids Griffins once his junior team is eliminated from the 2014 postseason but the way he and the Foreurs are playing Wings' fans won't see him for a few months.
Mantha has been a playoff hero, scoring 24 goals in 24 games, including the championship-clinching goal in Game 7 Tuesday. With only 52 seconds left, after Baie-Comeau roared back from a three-goal deficit in the final period, Mantha's goal lifted Val d'Or to the Memorial Cup, which begins Friday in London, Ontario.