Since being selected No. 20 overall by the Detroit Red Wings during the 2013 draft, Anthony Mantha has had a lot of hype surrounding him. It’s not surprising since he had 160 goals and 154 assists in 224 games with Val d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
At 6-foot-5, 204 pounds, he was the big-bodied offensive threat the Red Wings haven’t had in years. However, Mantha faced adversity before he even played his first professional game. He fractured his tibia during the Red Wings’ prospects tournament and missed nearly two months of the season and an opportunity to make the Red Wings out of training camp.
Mantha started the season in Grand Rapids with the Griffins but was unable to achieve the same success he had in juniors. He finished the 2014-15 season with 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 62 games and four points (two goals, two assists) in 16 playoff games.
Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano called Mantha’s season “very disappointing,” saying he had such high hopes for the winger. Devellano’s comments were a bit unfair — Mantha missed training camp and almost the first two months of the season. The expectations should have been tempered after Mantha’s injury.
Mantha started the 2015-16 in Grand Rapids after his “disappointing” season and improved, scoring 45 points (21 goals, 24 assists) in 60 games and 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in nine playoff games.
He also made his NHL debut that season, playing in 10 games and scoring three points (two goals, one assist) for the Red Wings.
Despite improving on his second professional season, general manager Ken Holland wasn’t impressed with the prospect, telling the Detroit News’ Gregg Krupa before the playoffs last season:
Anthony Mantha was a spare part in the (AHL) Calder Cup playoffs a year ago. Why does anyone think he is going to be the answer in Detroit?
Holland didn’t change his mind after training camp this September, opting to keep Andreas Athanasiou and sending Mantha back to Grand Rapids to start the 2016-17 season.
Once again, Mantha had to prove himself. He scored 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in 10 games with the Griffins, before getting called up to the Red Wings when Athanasiou suffered a knee sprain.
Making His Team Better
Since being called up, Mantha has been nothing short of spectacular. He has seven points (four goals, three assists) in 12 games, including a goal in Detroit’s 4-3 shootout win against Winnipeg on Tuesday.
It’s not just that he is scoring at a pretty consistent rate despite being a “rookie,” but Mantha is making his teammates better.
According to Winging It In Motown’s Prashanth Iyer, heading into Tuesday’s game, the Red Wings were a plus-45 in five-on-five shot attempts when Mantha was on the ice and minus-72 when he was off the ice.
Mantha continued to help his team dominate possession against the Jets, as the Red Wings had 15 shot attempts for with Mantha on the ice and eight shot attempts against, according to Natural Stat Trick.
The following chart gives a visual representation of how well Mantha has performed relative to the rest of his team:
This chart was made before Tuesday’s game, but the numbers won’t change much after one game. Mantha had a score-adjusted Corsi for/60 minutes of 62.91 and a Corsi against/60 minutes of 46.32. The colored circles represent the difference between CF and CA, and blue represents a high positive number — in Mantha’s case, 16.59.
Mantha’s sample size of 12 games is small, and with an on-ice save percentage around 96 percent, Mantha no doubt soon will see his fair share of goals against. However, he’s made the most of his opportunity with the Red Wings after suffering a setback early in his professional career and certainly looks like more than a “spare part.”
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.