TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (WOOD) — The Detroit Red Wings wrapped up their first camp of the off-season this week in Traverse City.
The Prospects Camp featured 44 players and 17 Red Wings draft choices.
The group included the Wings’ highest first-round selection in more than 20 years: Dylan Larkin, who was selected 15th overall by Detroit in 2014. That the highest since Martin Lapointe was chosen 10th overall in 1991.
Larkin led his Michigan AAA team to a national championship this past season and will play for the University of Michigan in the fall.
But a prospect who may actually head to Detroit this season is Anthony Mantha.
The 19-year-old was Detroit’s No. 1 draft pick in 2013. He was a highly regarded star in the juniors with the Ontario Val-d’Or Foreurs.
He scored 57 goals and put up 120 points in just 57 games last season. He was named the MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year.
“Maybe it was just the group of guys around me,” Mantha said of his strong showing last season. “We had a great team. The players were great. The coaches were, also. We just had a lot of un last year, and that’s where the success started.”
It was an impressive enough season to give Mantha a legitimate chance of jumping straight from the juniors to Detroit. The last Red Wings player to do that was Steve Yzerman in the early 1980s.
But to make that happen, Mantha would likely have to win a top six forward spot. If he doesn’t, he’ll open the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Mantha said he was comfortable in his second pro camp.
“Last year, I wanted to come here and impress as many people as I could, and really come here and try to make the team. Then they talked to me and sent me back down. I got a huge year last year,” he said. “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.”
He knows that the Wings could very well send him to Grand Rapids — the organization has a history of keeping players in the minors longer than most franchises.
“I can’t wait to play my first pro game somewhere — in Grand Rapids Detroit. It does feel good and I hope it will be next year,” he said.
While the big prize would be the Red Wings, he’s prepared to play for the Griffins.
“It can just be good for me, for my approach to the NHL,” he said. “It’s still pro level. You need to learn. I’m a young player and I don’t mind.”
He said the Wings want him to work on being “an everydayer.”
“It’s a message they’ve passed on and on,” he said. “I tried doing it this year. I tried at camp right here. That’s mostly the biggest thing I need to improve.”
==Above, hear more from Mantha and Grand Rapids Griffins Coach Jeff Blashill on the prospect.==