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Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha gets ‘talked up’ ahead of the World Juniors

No sleep for George, but a nice pair of articles about the prospect who has some Wings fans wondering if the cat ate the canary and got away with it at the 2013 draft.

As noted in Saturday's prospect post, Anthony Mantha and Jake Paterson took part in Team Canada's World Junior Selection camp in Toronto this weekend, ahead of the World Juniors in Malmo, Sweden

The Wings have signed both players to entry-level contracts, and while Paterson, who plays for the Saginaw Spirit, seems destined to back up Montreal Canadiens draft pick Zachary Fucale, the QMJHL's leading scorer--who will still be leading the Q in scoring when he returns to the Val-d'Or Foreurs in January as his 72 points sit 21 ahead of the only Q player who will be active over the holiday season--is drawing rave reviews as someone who is more than just a flash-in-the-pan in Canada's highest-scoring Major Junior league.

Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager isn't easily impressed, but both he and two of the best prospects in the other CHL leagues in Windsor Spitfires winger Kerby Rychel and Edmonton Oil Kings center Curtis Lazar believe that Mantha's up to snuff as a superb power forward...

There is no one in the CHL who can match Mantha for having a power winger's frame, 6-foot-5 and 204 pounds, and such a skill set. Just ask the guys from the other two leagues.

"Just on the spot I can't think of anyone in the WHL," said Lazar, the Ottawa Senators first-rounder who's helped Edmonton reach consecutive WHL championship series. It's cool to see him get those key attributes for himself. Just being out there playing with him I try to get him the puck and go to the net and clear space for him, As you see in the Quebec League, you give him that split-second and he can put the puck in the net."

What about the Ontario league?

"I don't think so," said left wing Kerby Rychel, who was drafted No. 19 overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in June, one pick before the Detroit Red Wings took Mantha.

Mantha himself has readily admitted that he's had to work on his game because his skating and "competition level" weren't up to par, but he believes that he's put in enough work to prove that he's not just a natural scorer, but also an "everyday'er," as Mike Babcock might say...

The standard of care about his own end of the rink has also kicked in for the Longueuil native, whose grandfather, André Pronovost, was a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s. Team Canada assistant coach Benoit Groulx has seen the change in Mantha over the past three seasons since his Gatineau Olympiques and the big man's Val-d'Or Foreurs are division rivals.

"At the beginning, he was a really offensive player," Groulx said. "But he's more responsible. We can tell when we play against Val-d'Or that he pays attention to details defensively. When you have skills like that at 6-foot-5 and you can shoot the puck, it's very valuable.

"He's got size, speed, skills, got a good shot, and he's got a very good flair around the net and it doesn't take much room for him to score goal," Groulx adds. "The older he gets and the more he learns about playing his position, the better the player he's going to be."

Foreurs coach Mario Durocher coached Canada in the 2004 world junior, when a third-period collapse — AKA the Marc-Andre Fleury meltdown — gifted the gold medal to Team USA. (Canada would win the next two golds under Brent Sutter.) Mantha notes that Durocher has got the point across that his D-zone play needs some working.

"He puts me on the penalty killing, which helps because it's defence first," Mantha said. "He told me that I need to bring my offensive game here. But I came knowing i needed to be good on the little details because one mistake can cost you a game in this tournament. So we worked on my defensive zone a lot."

Mantha continues, as does Sager, while discussing how his size and speed might translate to the 200-by-100-foot international rink (North Americans play on 200-feet-long-by-85-feet-wide rinks).

The Postmedia News's Daniel Nugent-Bowman noted that Mantha's highly likely to earn a top-six spot among a Canadian team which possesses nine centers and very few "natural wingers"...

All Mantha seemingly does is contribute offensively. He scored 50 goals for the Quebec league’s Val-d’Or Foreurs last season. But as a 6-foot-5, 204-pound lanky player, his skating has been called into question.

“It looks like I’m not as fast as other people,” Mantha said. “But when I get the puck or when I’m on the backcheck, I have the same speed or even more than other guys.”

And it's worth noting that someone very important to the Red Wings' organization has been watching Mantha, Paterson and the rest of the Canadian prospects work through their paces in Toronto this past weekend:

“He has the ability to win a game with his hockey sense and his skill level,” said Wright, adding he’s excited to watch the winger on the big ice overseas.

Wright also noted that Mantha’s all-around game has improved considerably since training camp.

Mantha admitted he’s more committed than he was in the past.

“It’s being an everyday-er,” he said. “For me, it was something that I had to learn.”

Like I said wink

Again, assistant coach Groulx gives Mantha his stamp of approval...

"At the beginning in the league, he was only an offensive player,” he said. “He’s more responsible in his game defensively, especially this year. We can tell when we play against Val-d’Or that he pays attention to detail defensively. When you have skills like that at 6-foot-5 and you can shoot and pass the puck, it’s something every team wants to have on their team.”

And he also offers an intriguing thought:

Groulx believes Mantha gets his skill from his grandfather, Andre Prenovost, a four-time Stanley Cup champion from 1957 to 1960 with the Montreal Canadiens. Prenovost lives in Shawinigan, and speaks with Mantha once or twice a month to offer tips.

Mantha came to the Wings' prospect tournament looking out of his element, but he improved by leaps and bounds over the five-day tournament, contributing key goals and assists in the Wings prospects' semifinal and championship-winning games. Some of his pro teammates looked absolutely gassed from the camp and their long AHL playoff runs, but Mantha was fresher and learned equally fast during the Wings' main camp, earning an exhibition game's worth of ice time in the process.

When he came back to the QMJHL, he took part in an interview with player agent John Moore and financial advisor Earl Jessiman, and he offered some more encouraging comments regarding his status as a studious self-improver:

In early November, RedWingsCentral revealed its prospect list, and as the site's creator, Matthew Wuest, follows the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, he offered a wise take on Mantha's promise...

4. Anthony Mantha, RW, Val-d’Or (QMJHL), 20-22-27-49-26, plus-4, 122 SOG.

Mantha, the Red Wings’ highest drafted forward since Martin Lapointe, has annihilated QMJHL competition since being taken 20th overall. Although he needs to devote his efforts to playing a more complete game, he’s as good any goal-scoring prospect you’ll find — anywhere.

A few days later, Hockey's Future's Ken McKenna had this to say about Mantha...

Anthony Mantha, LW – Val-d’or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings
1st Round, 20th overall in 2012

Mantha is having a record-breaking season in the QMJHL. Only months after a career season when he finished with 89 points in 67 games, the Quebec native is currently on pace to shatter that mark. In 23 games played, he has 24 goals (eight power play and four shorthanded), 30 assists, along with an 18-percent shooting percentage. He currently leads the league in scoring and was named the TELUS first star of the month for October.

Detroit recently signed the right winger to an entry-level contract. Fans in the Motor City are excited for the day he joins the club, but will have to wait until at least this off-season. A pure goal-scorer, he simply knows where and when to be in the offensive zone. Thus far, his consistency has been great. It will be interesting to see how Mantha responds to a slump.

And Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp weighed in with this on December 2nd:

Anthony Mantha, LW, Val-d'Or Foreurs
Acquired: 1st round (20th overall) in 2013

Few prospects not named Gustav Nyquist have received the kind of hype that Mantha has thus far received, and perhaps none in recent memory have caused such a stir so quickly after being drafted.

The reason for the hype is well-founded and statistically oriented. In only 28 games, Mantha has netted 30 goals and 32 assists for a total of 62 points. He has also answered the criticisms of his inconsistent play this year, demonstrating a greater game-to-game effort. An additional facet of Mantha's game that has shown more polish in 2013-14 is his ability to deal with physical play. Mantha has been able to absorb hits while maintaining the play, which allows him to utilize his incredible on-ice vision to set up teammates. If Mantha continues to improve the subtleties of his game, then he could develop into a top-six NHL forward.

With players like Riley Sheahan and Landon Ferraro no longer waiver-exempt next season (as the Production Line's Michael Petrella pointed out) and players like Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Calle Jarnkrok ahead of Mantha in the pecking order, it's hard to imagine that Mantha will be playing anywhere other than the QMJHL or AHL next season, but it sure is refreshing to read people gush about a Wings prospect--and a Wings prospect who the team traded down two picks to snag (and the Wings grabbed Tyler Bertuzzi with the 2nd-rounder San Jose surrendered to ensure that they'd pick Mirco Mueller, who's no slouch himself).

I'm not about to suggest that Mantha's going to be a 40 or 50-goal-scorer in the NHL, not for a second--he's going to have to earn his way to 30-goal potential over the long haul--but again, it's fun to see him progress so quickly and earn widespread recognition. Let's hope that his smooth ascent along the learning curve continues at its present pace.

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Comments

Down River Dan's avatar

Hopefully at 6’ 5” he will not be as easy to knock off his skates as Keith Primeau, similar size, was.

Posted by Down River Dan on 12/15/13 at 03:08 PM 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.