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

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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.