TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (WOOD) — At only 19, Anthony Mantha is clearly the No. 1 prospect in the Detroit Red Wings organization.
A big guy (6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds) who can score goals, Mantha has proven to be an elite player in the junior league.
With the Val-d’Or Foreurs junior team out of Quebec last season, he scored 57 goals and had 120 points — more than two per game. That’s the second straight season he racked up more than 50 goals.
This coming season, he could be headed to Grand Rapids to join the Griffins.
“Last year, I wanted to come here and try to make the team. Then they talked to me and sent me back down,” Mantha said. “I got a huge year last year. Coming back this year, I think it’s the same mentality. I want to make the team this year. I’ll do everything it takes this summer to be ready for camp.”
Mantha was named the MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year this year.
“I’m just having fun playing hockey,” he said. “I want to make it a living. You just want to have fun and don’t put yourself under too much pressure. A little bit of pressure is good.”
Mantha was the Wings’ No. 1 draft pick in 2013 — the 20th pick in the NHL overall that year.
The Wings have a history of letting their prospects develop at length in the minors. But Mantha appears to have a legitimate chance to become one of the very few to jump directly from the juniors to Detroit.
“The fact that he’s even in that conversation means that he had an outstanding career in juniors,” Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill said.
“If I do everything I need to make the team and don’t give them any chance to send me back down, it’s a pressure on them. But as I mentioned, I’ll be ready,” Mantha said.
To get to Detroit, Mantha will have to beat out a top-six forward — and that would not be easy. If he doesn’t head straight to the Wings, he’ll start his pro career in Grand Rapids.
“Grand Rapids is a great place to play: great coaching staff, great players,” Mantha said.