NEWARK, N.J. – The Red Wings used their first-round selection to take a prolific goal scorer with an Original Six pedigree.
A 50-goal scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, forward Anthony Mantha is the grandson of four-time Stanley Cup winner Andre Pronovost, who played parts of three seasons with the Red Wings in the 1960s.
“He was a guy we had targeted a lot higher so we lucked out on that for sure,” said Joe McDonnell, director of amateur scouting. “Obviously, it's going to be a few years from now, but we're real excited to get him where we picked him.”
The Red Wings selected Mantha at No. 20. They had entered Sunday with the No. 18 selection, the highest pick since they took winger Martin Lapointe with the No. 10 overall pick in 1991. However, shortly before general manager Ken Holland was supposed to make his way to the podium at the Prudential Center, the Red Wings made a trade, obtaining the No. 20 and No. 58, from the San Jose Sharks.
“We had it narrowed down to three names, would have been ecstatic with any of the three names we had, and as soon as we got to that point we knew we were going to get one of them, so it was a no-brainer really for us,” McDonnell said, of the trade. “And then we ended up getting the guy we really wanted in the end.”
Mantha is the only 50-goal scorer in this year’s draft. He led the QMJHL and tied for second in the Canadian Hockey League with 50 goals in 67 games. His offensive game, particularly his accurate shot, is often described as extraordinary by coaches and scouts.
“He’s just one of those guys that seems to find a way to hit the net, find a way to sneak to the goalies,” McDonnell said. “His accuracy is excellent.”
Mantha agreed, saying, “I think it’s really the precision that I put into my shot. It’s not necessarily the force that you put, but more of the precision.”
It was no secret that the Wings coveted a trade that would have them move down and add depth to the system. Since 2000, Detroit has gone without a first-round pick in eight years, including 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Heading into Sunday’s first-round, the Red Wings’ philosophy was to land a big, physical forward, and the selection of Mantha, who is 6-foot-4 and 190-pounds, certainly appears to give them that big offensive force that can provide long-term health of the franchise.
“His skill level is real good,” McDonnell said. “He's got a great shot and he just seems to find the open ice in the offensive end. And with his size to go along with those things it was a real intriguing package for us.”
Detroit’s new era began to reveal itself last season when high-end prospects Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Brenden Smith putting their stamps on the team’s roster. Since 2007, the franchise has accumulated young talent through the draft that has put players like Martin Frk, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Xavier Ouellet, Riley Sheahan, Ryan Sproul, Tomas Tatar in the pipeline.
Now here comes Mantha, the grandson of a former NHLer. Pronovost played 556 games for Montreal, Boston, Detroit and Minnesota between the 1956-57 and 1967-68 seasons.
“It’s really an honor,” said the 18-year-old Mantha. “Words really can’t come, but it’s just being there and showing them what I’m able to do. It’s just something that’s great for me.”
Mantha, of Longueuil, Quebec, isn’t short on confidence, and believes that he will be ready to compete for a roster spot with the Red Wings in the fall.
“My approach is really to make the big team next year, if not, in the next two years,” Mantha said. “I will show them everything that I can to be there without having to go to the minors.”
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