Near the end of the 2018-19 season, it seemed like Detroit Red Wing Anthony Mantha was unstoppable. In the last eight games of the season, he strung together 8 goals and 15 points, playing a lethal role at even strength and on the power play. In May, he participated in the IIHF World Championship, putting up 14 points in just nine games for Team Canada. With three seasons, two 20-plus goal seasons under his belt, and one incredible tournament showcase, Mantha seems primed for his best season yet.
Having said that, his career has been plagued with inconsistency and injury alike. He’s spent part of each of his three seasons in the NHL injured, and has frequently been criticized by coach Jeff Blashill for his inconsistent style of play. Will this season see Mantha eclipse 30 goals, or will it be more of the same? Today, we’ll be taking a close look at his record thus far, his potential for next season, and what we can expect from him in the future.
How Mantha Has Performed so Far
Before earning a full-time spot on the Red Wings’ roster, Mantha spent the beginning of the 2016-17 season on the Grand Rapids Griffins’ roster. However, this destination would be far from permanent, as he exploded out of the gate with 10 points in just as many games. After earning a call up, he spent the rest of the year on the Red Wings’ roster, putting up 17 goals and 36 points in 60 games. The potential he showcased during his first full season made him a lock for the 2017-18 season, where he went on to score 24 goals and 24 assists in 80 games. Last year, he put together 25 goals and 48 points in only 67 games. This upward trend seems to indicate that Mantha, now 24 years old, is bound for great things in the 2019-20 season.
With that being said, he has been frequently chided by the front office for his inconsistency. He has been found out of position on the defensive end, causing an uptick in high-danger chances for the opposition. Blashill isn’t afraid to put Mantha in the press box during some of his rougher streaks to give him a wake-up call. The two have butted heads on multiple occasions, but recent talks seemed to have strengthened the bond between the two. If the end of last season and Mantha’s performance at the IIHF Worlds shows us anything, it’s that he is still a highly-talented NHL player on the verge of a high-scoring, breakout season.
Mantha’s Potential Next Season
If Mantha can remain healthy and consistent all season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him crack the 30-goal plateau. He’s surrounded by talent in fellow linemates Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, and can easily slot in another role with players like Andreas Athanasiou and, potentially, Filip Zadina or Joe Veleno. The strong supporting cast, coupled with the confidence he’s gained from the IIHF Championships, should help to propel Mantha into an elite caliber of goal-scorers in the NHL.
Advanced stats can be used to track a player’s development from eager rookie to seasoned vet. Taking a look at Mantha’s advanced stats seem to indicate that the sky’s the limit for the speedy forward. By directly comparing his season last year with his 2017-18 season, we can see an increase in zone entries, offensive opportunities, and key plays as the season develops. While he scored the same number of points during both seasons, his advanced stats seem to showcase a more defensively responsible, consistent development in his play style.
The Future of Mantha
With that in mind, what does the future hold for Mantha? His contract ends at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, and he’ll no doubt look for a significant pay raise from the $3.3 million he’ll be earning next year. If he manages to break out next season by scoring over 30 goals, he’ll more than likely earn a bridge deal where he’ll be making anywhere from $5-6 million a year. By the time this bridge deal reaches its conclusion, the Red Wings should be much closer to contention. If all goes according to plan, Mantha will then sign a long-term extension, and Red Wings fans will breathe a sigh of relief as the team locks down their elite, high-scoring winger.
While Mantha’s eclipse of the 30-goal plateau seems inevitable, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to reach 40 goals — or maybe even more. He fits a similar role to Buffalo Sabres’ Jeff Skinner; a high-scoring winger that battles inconsistency while serving up some jaw-dropping highlight goals. The 2019-20 season will be a true test to see if he finally has what it takes to earn the elite scoring title that his draft profile lauded him for. Mantha is an important part of the Red Wings’ future; this next season will be the true test to determine just how important he will become.
What do you think? Is the 2019-20 season the Season of Mantha, or will it be more of the same? Let us know in the comments!