Author: Ryan Dadoun

Anthony Mantha

Blashill: Expectations for Mantha in ’14-15 were too high


Coach Jeff Blashill is making the leap from AHL Grand Rapids to the Detroit Red Wings, but top-end prospect Anthony Mantha probably won’t be following him in the short-term after, as Red Wings executive Jim Devellano put it, a “very, very, very disappointing” start to his pro career.

Mantha was taken with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and followed that up with 57 goals and 120 points in 57 QMJHL contests in 2013-14. That left Mantha feeling like he could make Detroit’s roster out of training camp. Ultimately though, he recorded 15 goals and 33 points in 62 AHL contests.

“First of all, the expectation level on Anthony was too high, and in part that was his fault,” Blashill told The Detroit News. “When you have a career like that in juniors, the expectations are too high.”

The new Red Wings bench boss noted that untimely injuries sustained in September and then right before the playoffs were part of the problem, but the 20-year-old also has to develop good habits.

“I think Anthony still needs to learn to work as hard as you have to work, shift in and shift out, moving his feet, in order to utilize that skill set at the American league level and the NHL level,” Blashill added. “And it would have been impossible for him to realize he had to do that at the junior level, because he didn’t have to.

“Until you’ve faced a level where you actually have to, you’re never going to make those adjustments.”

Naturally he’s still optimistic about Mantha. Perhaps the 2014-15 campaign will prove to be an eye opening experience for him and if he can enter the season healthy, then that might go a long way towards him bouncing back.

If nothing else, expectations for him in 2015-16 will be tamer.

Bowman urges patience for Panarin, but ‘it’s fun to think of the possibilities’

Artemi Panarin

It’s easy to get excited about a player that can outscore a teammate like Ilya Kovalchuk at the age of 23, but just how good will Artemi Panarin be when he makes the jump from the KHL’s St. Petersburg SKA to Chicago’s organization?

“We’re trying to be patient with the expectations because he’s coming to a new country, learning the language. Everything is new to him,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told CSN Chicago. “I always try to tell people, imagine you go to Russia and you’re expected to just jump in to a new culture and be a superstar right away. There will be a little adjustment there but he has special ability. It’s fun to think of the possibilities there.”

It certainly is fun to think of the possibilities. Patrick Kane hasn’t seen anything more than highlights when it comes to Panarin, but he can’t help but admit that it will be “pretty scary” if the KHL star can live up to expectations. Meanwhile, Panarin’s former SKA teammate, Viktor Tikhonov, who was also signed by Chicago is predicting that “Blackhawks fans are going to absolutely love him.”

Chicago’s decision to dip into the KHL for talent likely came partially out of necessity because its difficult cap situation lends itself to replenishing the team’s depth through less conventional means. The Blackhawks were also active when it came to recruiting undrafted college talent this summer, luring the highly touted Kyle Baun back in March.

The Blackhawks now have a few of new X-Factors that might make an impact in the coming season, but it’s likely that none will be watched more intently than Panarin, even if it’s reasonable to expect there to be an adjustment period.

PHT Morning Skate: Seguin shows his support for Tom Brady

Tyler Seguin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Tyler Seguin is supporting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following his Deflategate suspension. (Dallas Morning News)

If each team had its own Mount Rushmore, who would be on them? (New York Post)

Miles Koules looks to Liam O’Brien for inspiration as the undrafted forward aims to fight his way onto the Washington Capitals’ roster. (CSN Washington)

Corey Crawford brought the Stanley Cup to his old high school. (Puck Daddy)

Jeremy Roenick expects Jakub Voracek to continue to excel after setting a new career high with 81 points in 82 games last season. (CSN Philly)

Viktor Tikhonov, who is making the move from the KHL to Chicago Blackhawks, sees “pluses and minuses” to being a part of a famous hockey lineage. (Chicago Tribune)

Good start: Top-10 pick Zacha ‘was fantastic’ at development camp

Pavel Zacha
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You can’t read too much into development camp, but it seems Pavel Zacha couldn’t have made a better impression on Devils GM Ray Shero.

“I thought he was fantastic,” Shero told the Bergen Record. “That was the feedback we gave him today. I think that was from the entire staff. Very professional, very mature. He roomed with Damon Severson this week and they were really good together, but I think Pavel passed that on as well in terms of getting to know everybody here whether it was a draft pick or a tryout or just really dealing with people. So, I thought he did a real good job on and off the ice.”

Zacha also impressed John Hynes with his work ethic. The bench boss also noted that he’s “very coachable.”

The 18-year-old forward was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Although expectations always have to be tempered when talking about a player that young, the hope is that he’ll eventually play a big role on a Devils’ team that has ranked in the bottom-five in goals per game for the last three seasons.

He might even make the team out of training camp, but for that to even be possible he needs to sign an entry-level contract in the not too distant future. That’s because he’s tied to the Czech Republic squad Liberec and there’s a Aug. 18 deadline to get players that are under contract in Europe signed in order for them to be eligible to play in the NHL next season.

As it is the Devils will have to pay a $100,000 transfer fee because they didn’t get his deal done before the first deadline on July 15.

That being said, Shero said there haven’t been any “red flags” in the contract talks.

Related: Get to know a draft pick — Pavel Zacha

Lack of cap room has made for ‘really difficult’ summer for some free agents

Cody Franson

There are always going to be solid unrestricted free agents that have trouble finding a contract that lives up to expectations, but even in that context this year feels different, according to one longtime agent.

“It’s tough,” the agent told the Columbus Dispatch. “There are plenty of teams interested in adding a player, but they don’t have (salary cap) room. It’s just not there.

“So either they’re trying to make moves to accomodate that, or they’re waiting for the market to adjust. There’s plenty of time. It’s the middle of July. But it’s been really difficult for a lot of guys this summer.”

Thirteen teams have less than $5 million in remaining cap space, according to General Fanager. That number doesn’t include the New York Rangers, which still needs to re-sign RFA Derek Stepan, or the Los Angeles Kings, which might be in limbo as they wait to see how the contract situations with Slava Voynov and Mike Richards play out. So it’s not hard to argue that half the league has little to no cap space remaining. Of course, that doesn’t even start to factor in teams that are expected to stay significantly below the ceiling due to their own internal budgets, rebuilding strategy, or both.

Meanwhile, there are 22 UFAs remaining that came with a cap hit of at least $3 million last season.

There are of course going to be more noteworthy signings, but for teams that have space and the flexibility to add salary, this is a potentially great opportunity to improve their squad at a reduced price. We also might see more salary dumping trades before the 2015-16 campaign starts.

Related: There are some interesting players left on the UFA market