Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin, two of the brightest forward prospects in the Detroit organization, will be hard pressed to be on the opening night roster — at least according to GM Ken Holland.
“Realistically, I think he’s going to have to come in — it’s going to be a struggle for him to make the team,” Holland said of Mantha. “You gotta come in and take the job. We’ve probably got 14, 15, 16 forwards that we think, legitimately, are going to be competing for a spot on the team. I’m not even sure if Anthony’s in that group.
“Then there’s another group of young players — (Andreas) Athanasiou, (Tomas) Nosek, Mantha — that we think are going to be Red Wings. Are they going to be Red Wings in September? They gotta come in and knock somebody out of the box.”
What about Larkin?
“Same thing,” Holland said. “My take on Larkin is he’s gotta be in our top 12. Coach (Jeff) Blashill’s gotta say to me, as we’re putting the team together, ‘I want him in the lineup.’ He’s not going to be a 13th, 14th forward.”
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Detroit was already deep at forward before inking AHL Grand Rapids standout Andy Miele to a one-way deal, and signing veteran center Brad Richards on the opening day of free agency.
All told, Detroit currently has 12 NHL-caliber forwards under contract (though one is Johan Franzen, still dealing with concussion issues) with four guys — Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro — still needing new deals.
So, all signs point to both Larkin and Mantha heading to the Griffins next year. For Larkin, the 15th overall pick in 2014, it’ll be a chance to further impress after scoring five points in six Calder Cup playoff games this year.
For Mantha, the 20th overall pick in ’13, it’ll be a chance to rebound after a tough year in which Red Wings executive Jim Devellano said Mantha was “very, very, very disappointing.”