Anthony Mantha

Rebuilding Red Wings counting on Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi

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DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings ended a third straight season without a postseason bid, counting on a core of players 24 years old and younger to end the postseason drought next year.

Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi each set career highs for scoring and Anthony Mantha matched his highest point total.

Even though Detroit had more points in the standings than just three teams in the NHL, the quartet is generating hope for the future.

”It’s extremely satisfying to see what these young guys can do,” 38-year-old defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. ”I think if people can stay patient with this process, Larkin is going to lead the way to bring the franchise back to where we all want it to be.”

Thomas Vanek, a 35-year-old wing, saw the young group grow collectively and individually late in the season.

”Confidence is never given,” Vanek said. ”Confidence has to be earned. They earned it in a game or two, then all the sudden Mantha goes from 6-5 to 6-8 and he’s a different player.”

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The 22-year-old Larkin took a step toward living up to the $30.5 million, five-year deal last summer, scoring a career-high 32 goals and having 73 points to lead the team. He also played with some toughness, becoming the first player in franchise history to lead the team in goals, points and penalty minutes in same season since 1927.

Larkin, though, was not happy with the team’s performance in a 7-1 loss to Buffalo at home on Saturday to close with two straight losses after winning a season-high six games.

”It’s tough, especially with the way we’ve been playing in the past couple of weeks, to finish like this,” he said.

Mantha, likewise, was not ready his development and production because of the year the Red Wings had as a team.

”Our team’s almost dead last in the league and we’re not even close to playoffs so that’s the big picture,” he said. ”Personally, I think I took strides. I think a lot of guys in here took strides and hopefully we can bring it on a different level next year.”

The Red Wings ended talk about who would be their coach next season, giving coach Jeff Blashill a two-year contract extension earlier this month. They also decided to stick with goaltender Jimmy Howard, signing him to a one-year deal last month to keep him under contract next year.

It may take longer to know if former Red Wings great Steve Yzerman is going to come back to lead the front office.

General manager Ken Holland, who made the decision to keep Blashill, has one year left on his contract. Yzerman could potentially come back to work for the Red Wings after Tampa Bay’s season ends, nearly a year after he stepped down as the Lightning’s general manager.

No matter who is coaching or running the franchise, the Red Wings desperately need Larkin, Athanasiou, Bertuzzi and Mantha to lead the way on the ice.

”Can they carry a hockey team to wins? That’s a big question they’ll answer on a nightly basis next year,” Blashill said. ”It’s a heck of a responsibility. I don’t think there’s very many young players throughout the league that are able to carry their team. We’re going to ask that group of four up front to be a huge piece to carrying this team and they’re going to have to spend the summer getting way better.”

The Red Wings are likely not ready to be major players in free agency because they’re more than a player or two away from contending for a championship. They will have some decisions to make with their own players eligible to be unrestricted free agents, including Kronwall, who played 79 games for a second straight year to show he can stay healthy and be productive.

Kronwall said he hasn’t decided if he wants to play another season or retire.

”He’s made a huge argument that he can for sure play one more season and good for him,” Blashill said. ”He’s put himself in a spot where he can make that decision. He’s not being forced in that decision. The decision, I think, ultimately, will be his.”

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Mrazek, Mantha help Red Wings down Blackhawks

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You kind of get the feeling that teams heading onto their mandatory week off would like to start forgoing that last game before the break.

The Winnipeg Jets lost 4-1 in the game they failed to show up to on Saturday. On Friday, the Columbus Blue Jackets got trounced 5-2 in the game before they got a break.

And on Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks seemed checked out in a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, a team who played 24 hours earlier and lost handily 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hell, even Jeff Glass couldn’t save the Blackhawks, who got outworked from what seemed like the opening puck drop.

Dylan Larkin gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead just over four minutes into the first period.

Andreas Athanasiou showed his speed as he worked past Blackhawks’ defenders down low, before sliding a pass out to Larkin, who was perched in the slot.

Larkin made no mistake, given the opportunity, as he notched his seventh of the season.

Mike Green showed why he was named an NHL all-star this past week for the Red Wings second goal, which doubled their advantage just over two minutes later.

Gustav Nyquist gained the Blackhawks’ zone and dropped a pass to Anthony Mantha, who took one look to Green and fed him a cross-ice pass that Green one-timed past and outstretched Glass.

It was Green’s 25th point of the season, and couple with his all-star nod, Green, who is set to become a free agent in the offseason, keeps building a case for himself to be traded to a contender when the deadline comes around.

Mantha grabbed his second point of the game in the third period as he joined the rush off the bench.

Mantha let Henrik Zetterberg know he was flying into the zone starting from the time he jumped onto the ice, and Zetterberg dropped the puck to Mantha, allowing for a nice wrist shot that beat Glass high for a 3-0 lead.

Tyler Bertuzzi, the nephew of Todd who came into the game without his first-career NHL goal, checked that item off his to-do list later in the period.

Bertuzzi parked himself in front of Glass’s doorstep and whacked home a rebound after Nick Jensen‘s shot from the slot was saved.

Meanwhile, Petr Mrazek kept things tidy in the crease for the Red Wings, stopping all 27 shots he faced.

The Blackhawks didn’t test him all that much, but Mrazek, who has struggled this season, turned aside 12 third-period shots en route to the win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Welcome Anthony Mantha to the trade rumor mill

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At the NHL trade deadline Anthony Mantha was a prospect the Detroit Red Wings were unwilling to part ways with; however, it appears things have changed.

According to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox, the Wings’ are now willing to trade Mantha and their first round selection at this month’s draft (19th overall) for the right price.

Cox reports the 6-foot-5, 205-pound forward is the piece that killed any trade talks between the Wings and Leafs, which would’ve sent defenseman Dion Phaneuf to Detroit.

Mantha had a tough first season adjusting to the professional game.

The Red Wings’ first-round selection (20th overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft broke his leg back in September at the team’s rookie tournament in Traverse City.

When he finally returned to game action in mid-November, the 20-year-old struggled to find his groove.

“That injury was hard. It took me two months off so that means I started two months later than everyone,” Mantha told PHT in February. “I’ve started to play really good, but I mean I’m still two months back of everyone so I need to put double the effort in.

“After my injury, it had been five months since I had played a real game and it hurt my confidence a little bit and obviously my game is not the same.”

After consecutive 50-plus goal seasons with Val d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Mantha finished the 2014-15 season with 15 goals and 18 assists in 62 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He added two goals and two assists in 16 playoff games.

His poor first season in Grand Rapids led to some brutal honesty from longtime Red Wings executive Jim Devellano when asked about Mantha last month.

“Very, very, very disappointing,” said Devellano. “And I say that with a lot of sadness. Coming out of junior, we had such high hopes for him.”

Following the season, Mantha agreed many areas of his game need improvement heading into the 2015-16 season.

“I need to work on my strength, for sure,” Mantha said in May. “I need to work on a lot of aspects of my play, like getting quicker on my skates … I got better as the year went along but I need to keep growing for the summer.”

Despite the rough rookie campaign in Grand Rapids, Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill believes Mantha will be a good pro.

“He’s got special skill for a guy his size. He can do things that other guys just can’t do,” said Blashill in February. “He’s going to be a great player; I truly believe that and its just going to be a matter of time.

“When you care as much as he cares, as soon as he learns the daily attention to detail and the daily work ethic it takes, with his skill set, he’s going to be a special player.”

Mantha’s ‘going to be a great player,’ says Detroit’s AHL coach

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Entering this season there were high hopes for Anthony Mantha.

The Red Wings prospect was hoping to make the leap to the NHL with Detroit; however, Mantha suffered a broken leg at the prospects tournament in Traverse City.

The injury forced the 20-year-old to miss the first month and a half of the season and even today Mantha feels like he’s playing catch up.

“That injury was hard. It took me two months off so that means I started two months later than everyone,” Mantha told PHT recently. “I’ve started to play really good, but I mean I’m still two months back of everyone so I need to put double the effort in.

“After my injury, it had been five months since I had played a real game and it hurt my confidence a little bit and obviously my game is not the same.”

On top of recovering from the broken leg, this is Mantha’s first season in the American Hockey League.

The forward is coming off back-to-back 50 goal seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Val d’Or Foreurs.

In 36 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Mantha has eight goals and 10 assists.

“I think its been hard. Especially starting late on everyone, but I’m getting there now and its going up hill,” Mantha said of the adjustment. “The guys are way better over here. They’re stronger; they’re harder on the puck. The goalies are also really good over here.”

Despite his early season struggles, Griffins’ coach Jeff Blashill has no doubt about Mantha’s future in the game.

“He’s got special skill for a guy his size. He can do things that other guys just can’t do,” said Blashill. “He’s going to be a great player; I truly believe that and its just going to be a matter of time.

“When you care as much as he cares, as soon as he learns the daily attention to detail and the daily work ethic it takes, with his skill set, he’s going to be a special player.”

As with any 20-year-old playing in the AHL, Blashill says Mantha needs to shed some of his junior habits in order to take his game to the next level.

“He was able to get away with not skating a ton and I think at this level you have to skate to get the puck, skate to get the puck back, you have to skate to make sure you’re not spending the whole time in the defensive zone,” said Blashill. “Its just a matter of changing those habits.

“That’s just going to take time, but habits will change if work at them and willing to work hard at them and listen and get better. That’s what he’s certainly been willing to do.”

Detroit is notorious developing late-round picks into NHL players. Riley Sheahan is the lone Red Wings’ forward currently on the roster, who was selected in the first round by Detroit.

Mantha, the Red Wings’ first-round pick (20th overall) in 2013, could soon be the second.

“We know he can score goals,” said Blashill. “But he’s actually got an ability to make lots of plays with the puck in tight areas and I think when you’ve got that kind of stick, at that size level, when you can skate like that – its just a really good package.”

World Juniors: Finland beats Sweden 3-2 in overtime to win gold

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Rasmus Ristolainen’s golden goal in overtime gave Finland a 3-2 victory against rival Sweden and their first World Junior Championships gold medal since 1998.

Ristolainen, a 2013 Buffalo Sabres first-round pick, pinched in deep to deke and beat Swedish goalie, and Blue Jackets prospect, Oscar Dansk for the game-winner. Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen assisted on all three Finnish goals.

Here’s video of the game-winner. Enjoy the Finnish call of the game.

Celebrating victory gets weird when you’re in Sweden though as Ristolainen shows in this GIF courtesy of CJZero.

source:

Pippi Longstocking wigs are so in, you guys. It’s a Swedish thing so that’s just super.

It turned out to be a good tournament for fans of the Sabres and Nashville Predators. Swedish forward Filip Forsberg was named MVP of the tournament as well as Best Forward and was one of the tourney’s all-stars up front. Teravainen and Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha were also named to the all-star team.

Ristolainen won the award for Best Defenseman and he along with Russian defenseman Nikita Zadorov were named to the tournament’s all-star team as was Finnish goalie and Predators prospect Juuse Saros.

Next year’s tournament moves to Canada where it’ll be held in Toronto and Montreal. With Canada not winning a medal the past two years and not having won gold in five years, the pressure will be on.