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.”