After the Red Wings signed Thomas Vanek to a one-year deal in free agency this off-season, the writing was all but on the wall for prospect Anthony Mantha. Although he showed that he has the potential to help the Red Wings last season (by scoring two goals in 10 games with the team), it was likely that he would begin this season with that Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL unless he had a stellar training camp. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Mantha had a bad training camp, but he didn’t do enough to make the team feel like he’d be more of an asset in Detroit than Grand Rapids though.
Fast forward to Wednesday, three games into the season for both Grand Rapids and Detroit. After recording a hat trick in last night’s 4-3 Griffins victory, Mantha has five goals already in the young season. All three of Mantha’s goals on Tuesday came on the power play. He has scored at least a goal in each of the team’s first three games, while the team has raced off to a 3-0 start.
Meanwhile in Detroit, Vanek has earned his keep through the first three games by scoring five points of his own (two goals and three assists), while also helping the power play get off to a blistering start. Currently, the Wings are converting at a 37.5 percent clip with the man-advantage, while Vanek has contributed three power play points.
Is Mantha ready to contribute regularly at the NHL level? “I think he has great steps in the right directions,” head coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit Free Press. “As I told him, he looked like he’d improved a vast amount. He’s much more ready to step in. Now he’s got to be ready to jump through the window of opportunity whenever that window comes. His job is not to dictate when the window comes, his job is to make sure he is ready.”
With the hot start the power play is off to for the Red Wings (which is one area that Mantha would be expected to contribute), it seems that letting Mantha stay in Grand Rapids for the time being isn’t such a bad idea. While in the minors, he can continue to work on his puck control (an area where he could improve), while also playing a big role on the team for the Griffins. But, should the Red Wings meet up with the injury bug at the forward position, Mantha’s phone would likely be the first to ring for a call up.