GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha is scheduled to make his Grand Rapids Griffins debut on Friday against the Texas Stars.
Mantha has been out with a fractured tibia he suffered during the Red Wings prospects tournament Sept. 12. He has been practicing for the past couple of weeks with the Griffins and will finally make his long-awaited debut.
So what can we expect from Mantha’s debut?
Keep Expectations Low
Well, if you ask Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, fans should not expect Mantha to light up the scoreboard, since he hasn’t played very much since the Memorial Cup ended in May.
“He’s a really good player,” Blashill said. “He looks like he’s ready — he’ll have a good impact, but I would also caution that he hasn’t played much in the last six months, including summer. So, let’s see where his game’s at.
“If we sit around and hope Anthony Mantha wins us the game, then we’re going to be in trouble. If we play really good hockey, and Anthony can be a piece of the puzzle, we’ll be a better team because of it.”
— Larry Figurski (@larryfigurski) November 12, 2014
Mantha is trying to keep his expectations low as well. He told MLive.com’s Peter J. Wallner:
“I’m not putting myself through too much pressure. Everyone knows I suffered through an injury. To be honest, I don’t know how the game is going to go. I don’t know if I’ll play five minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes. I really don’t know. So I’m just preparing myself to bring my best game.”
Mantha was the CHL’s player of the year last year, as he scored 57 goals and put up 120 points in 57 games and then added 24 goals and 38 points in 24 playoff games for the Val d’Or Foruers of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
As excited as I am to see what Mantha can do, I’m going to side with Blashill on this one and not expect him to score five points in his first professional game. He hasn’t played much since the Memorial Cup, and this is a step up from juniors. He will be playing against guys older and much more experienced than he is.
The odds are good he doesn’t come right in and start lighting up the scoreboard, but if there is any chance of anybody doing it in their debut, it would be Mantha.
Mantha’s timing couldn’t be any better, too. The Griffins have struggled to score as of late and just picked up their first home win of the season in a 5-3 win against the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday.
Blashill did not have specifics as to who Mantha would be playing with, but he did say he will “plan on playing him a good amount. I plan on playing him on one of the top lines, on the power play.”
Mitch Callahan, who had two goals and an assist against Lake Erie, said Mantha’s presence is going to be a big boost for a team that has struggled to score.
“He’s a big kid,” Callahan said. “I know he’s strong. He put up 50-some goals, 60 goals last year. So, I think that’s one thing our team needed help on this year is goal scoring. So, him joining the lineup is really going to help our team, especially on the power play.
“Hopefully, get the power play numbers going as well.”
My guess is Mantha plays on the top line with Andy Miele and Callahan, but he could also skate with Andreas Athanasiou and Teemu Pulkkinen.
Either way, all eyes will be on Mantha at Van Andel Arena on Friday to see what the future of the Red Wings has in store for us.
How do you think Mantha will do in his first professional game? Leave a comment below.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
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.