Detroit Red Wings' Anthony Mantha Is Making His Case To Stay In The NHL

Detroit Red Wings' Anthony Mantha Is Making His Case To Stay In The NHL
Photo: © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Mantha's journey to the NHL has been riddled with adversity, but his later-than-anticipated arrival shows the hunger inside of him.

Mantha, 22, started the 2016-17 season with eight goals and ten points through ten AHL games before injuries forced his call-up. In his first 16 games, Mantha managed a modest four goals and seven points, though often played better than his point totals suggested.

Through the next 14 games, his production began matching his poise and flash. He recorded an additional seven goals and 15 points to bring his season totals to 11 goals and 22 points through 30 games this season, tied for fifth on the team.

He has consistently driven play, finished his checks and played a defensive game, which has contributed to his team-leading plus-9 rating. 

Mantha was drafted 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 and even through trying times, he's kept his composure and sights set on his dream of playing in the NHL.

The winger established career highs in goals, assists and points in each of his three seasons skating for the Val-d'Or Foreurs in the QMJHL.

No junior career is without blemish, but it wasn't until pro hockey that Mantha's path to the NHL received harsh criticism.

Mantha was hyped up to be a potential linemate of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for the 2013-14 NHL season before a broken tibia suffered in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament sidelined him for 6-8 weeks.

After nearly three months of healing and rehab, Mantha joined Detroit's AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids for his first taste of professional hockey. A higher level of skill, seasoned opponents and a mix of other variables showed that Mantha still had much to discover within his own game.

He learned that time and space in the next level weren't as easy to come by and that his 6-foot-5, 214-pound frame no longer towered over his opponents. He would have to seek out the puck, play a two-way game and create his own time and space.

Mantha wrapped up his rookie season with 15 goals and 33 points in 62 games. Following the season, Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano said the rookie's season was "very, very, very disappointing," noting that he failed to live up to the high hopes the organization had for him coming out of juniors.

"Personally, I think I underachieved a little bit," Mantha told MLive regarding Devellano's comments. "Obviously, I would have liked, say, 50, 60, 70 points. That was my goal at the start of the season. Obviously, I didn't achieve that, but it's not over."

Mantha was cut from training camp the following year after failing to leave a lasting impression. Mantha would get his first call-up in the NHL during the 2015-16 season and notched two goals and an assist in ten games.

Mantha returned to Grand Rapids with his confidence intact and further pushed himself toward his NHL dream even after he faced more criticism from the organization and was called a "spare part" by Red Wings general manager Ken Holland following his assignment back to the Grand Rapids.

He still managed a fair 21 goals and 45 points in 60 games to go alongside a plus-13 rating.

It's safe to say that Mantha's AHL days are behind him and his poise and skill are on full display for the Red Wings as they search for a 26th consecutive playoff berth.

The team is seeing a turnover of youth and Mantha is a big piece of their future alongside 20-year-old Dylan Larkin and 22-year-old Andreas Athanasiou.
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