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Red Wings playoff prospect news: Mantha’s Foreurs tie QMJHL championship

Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha was the only Wings prospect in action on Saturday, and he registered 2 assists (and a +2) as his Val-d'Or Foreurs rallied from a 2-1 deficit against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (with Mantha assisting on the game-tying and go-ahead goals), fell behind 3-2, forced OT and won 4-3 in overtime, evening the QMJHL's championship series at 1 game apiece.

Mantha now has 18 goals, 9 assists and 27 points in 19 playoff games played , but he's second in scoring on his own team and is still a full 14 points behind eliminated Halifax Mooseheads forward Jonathan Drouin for the QMJHL post-season scoring lead.

The President's Cup series will resume on May 6th in Val-d'Or...

And you're totally allowed to root against him.

When I said, "Now listen and study" as I posted Ken Holland's end-of-season presser, I did so for two reasons. The first involved quoting Bob and Doug McKenzie's 12 Days of Christmas, and the second was quite serious:

At the 22-minute mark of the following video (yes, I go back and watch these videos at least half-a-dozen times because I'm a dork like that), Holland tells the press that Mantha has to "steal someone's job" to earn a spot on the Red Wings' roster, and Holland explains that the Red Wings do not plan on giving Mantha a roster spot unless he earns it, he states that he's not planning on bringing Mantha into the mix unless he's put in the time in the AHL to be ready to step into the lineup and contribute, and in a very roundabout way, he ends up stating that he doesn't want Mantha to play anything less than top-six role (i.e. Mantha was not born to be a checker).

The moral of this story reads like this: you're totally allowed to hope that Mantha's Foreurs lose the QMJHL championship and don't play in the Memorial Cup in London later this month, even though that makes you someone rooting against a player's individual success.

Mantha will probably end up starting his professional career in Grand Rapids next fall, and given that the Griffins are likely to at least make a long run out of their defense of their Calder Cup championship, even if Mantha weren't to play a minute for the Griffins, serving as a "Black Ace" instead, any time he spends with the Griffins will help to speed up his acclimation to the the city that's likely to serve as his home for the next year-plus.

He'd be practicing with the Griffins, learning both Jeff Blashill and Mike Babcock's systems of play (and coaching styles given their Pete and Repeat mannerisms), he'd be getting to know his new teammates, including a French-speaker he's highly likely to lean upon in Xavier Ouellet, and he'd likely find an apartment to live in and possibly be shown the kinds of things that Major Junior players aren't always taught by their billet parents: where to go shop for groceries, which restaurants deliver if he's not in the mood to cook (if he can cook at all), where to go to the bank to access his paycheck (Major Junior players receive small stipends) and what car dealerships he might want to hit up to buy a vehicle (or buy a bed, furniture and a TV for his video game console).

He'd probably meet whoever he's going to share his living space with next year as well, and if he's brining a Future Mrs. Mantha with him, she'd (presumably) get to know the area as well.

In terms of personal success, the Red Wings want Mantha to go as far as he possibly can, because playoff hockey is playoff hockey, and winning a championship is always a positive experience; in terms of his transition from a Major Junior player who's been living in small-town Quebec with a family to a professional hockey player who's living on his own or with teammates in Western Michigan, joining the Griffins while they're still playing hockey would enable Mantha to establish roots in a new community and to prepare for making a very big jump in terms of the on and off-ice demands, the dominant language of the region and the, "You have to more or less take care of yourself for the first time in your life" challenges he'll face next fall.

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Regarding stealing a top 6 job.

Anthony Mantha is not a center, and he is not going to play wing on the top six above Zetterberg, Nyquist, Franzen, or Abdelkader.  We wouldn’t want him playing wing ahead of the first to (at least not this season).  While Franzen is inconsistent management seems to want to “fix” him and that will likely involve playing with Zetterberg or Nyquist, if not both.  Abdelkader’s lack of offense is frustrating but his play along the boards does help sustain offensive possessions and is a skill Mantha is unlikely to be able to replicate (Jurco might replicate it and steal Abdelkader’s job, or Sheahan if we’d try him at wing, but they’re bottom-six guys for the purpose of “can Mantha steal a top-six job” discussions—so are Helm and even Alfredsson, becaue the staff is comfortable giving them bottom-six minutes and linemates.)

That doesn’t mean Mantha isn’t going to be a top-six winger on this team, but it means that if he is playing in one of those spots, either one of the four guys I mentioned is unavailable (injury, exceedingly unlikely trade) or is not playing wing.  This could happen because Zetterberg and Datsyuk both play center or because Babcock returns to the semi-successful experiment of trying Franzen as a second-line center. 

Either of those things happening, however, means that Stephen Weiss is, for some reason, not working out as a second-line center.  That’s actually pretty likely, to my mind, but it’s also depressing.

Posted by captaineclectic on 05/04/14 at 06:53 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.