Anthony Mantha is a name that Detroit Red Wings fans have been hearing since the organization drafted him in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. So much so that it’s easy to forget that the forward has only appeared in 70 games at the NHL level. He’s never completed an entire season with the Red Wings, and has instead spent most of his professional career developing with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Mantha eventually made it to Detroit last season, though, and established himself as a regular. As such, 2017-18 will be the first time the 22-year-old has had the opportunity to play out an entire campaign with the Red Wings. That makes this an important outing for Mantha, as Detroit aims to prove pundits wrong by making it back to the playoffs after missing out last season. Narratives from 2016-17 suggest that consistently competing hard would be a step forward for Mantha. Coach Jeff Blashill scratched him last March to send that (inconsistently applied) message to the forward, and it proved to be a learning moment for him as a player. Sometimes bigger skaters don’t look like they are exerting much effort, and that is the case with Mantha sometimes. Still, there’s no denying that the Red Wings would love to see him utilize his 6-foot-5, 221-pound frame more effectively in the offensive zone. That’s the kind of size that can make a real difference when it comes to winning 50/50 puck battles, and represents the next evolution of Mantha’s game. If he can’t take that next step, there’s a chance that we could see him fall into the same trap that Johan Franzen did late in his career. While Franzen always had an outstanding finishing touch — much like Mantha — he was rarely willing to use his frame to create time and space for himself and his teammates. “Mule” was still an effective forward, but that lack of physicality prevented him from reaching his ceiling.
Anthony Mantha poised for breakout season
Fanrag Sports | Sep 12