Amidst a playoff push, the Detroit Red Wings are giving fans a little bit of a youth movement taste. Today, the organization called up top prospect Anthony Mantha from the Grand Rapids Griffins, amidst speculation that a couple of forwards could be questionable for Tuesday’s game.
Mantha was drafted by the Red Wings in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and is considered by many to be Detroit’s prospect with the most offensive upside. While it’s taken some time for the 21-year-old to find his stride, Mantha has put up a very respectable 21 goals and 45 points in 56 games this year, good for third on the Griffins in both regards and first in points among all Under-25 players on the team.
Mantha’s hype comes from his nose for the net, his powerful release, and the massive 6’5 frame he uses to power through opponents.
What makes the call-up seem a little odd on the surface is the fact that it contradicts statements made by Jeff Blashill less than a month ago. Just a day after Mantha scored the hat trick shown above against the Milwaukee Admirals, Blashill insisted that he wasn’t going to call the prospect up unless there was an opportunistic spot for him.
“The one thing I think is important is that we make sure that we keep him in a spot where he can really be confident,” Blashill said. “One of the worst things you can do is put a player into a spot where comes up here and plays six minutes, seven minutes a night.”
In fact, he suggested that he would require a top-six spot. “We would have to be convinced that he could beat out [Tomas Tatar], or [Dylan] Larkin or [Henrik] Zetterberg or [Justin] Abdelkader, and be in a situation where he’s on one of those top two lines and be able to beat those guys out and be better than them up here.”
It’s possible that he’s backed away from this mentality, but it’s also possible that Pavel Datsyuk was injured worse than we thought after his collision with Leafs forwards Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri last night.
— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) March 14, 2016
Datsyuk did come back to the game eventually, but didn’t appear to be as mobile and had his nostrils plugged up to alleviate the bleeding. Dylan Larkin also had a case of the nosebleeds after getting a goalie stick to the face from Jonathan Bernier.
Combine that with Darren Helm suffering through flu-like symptoms, and it seems even more possible that Mantha is coming up because the Wings are about to take a top six player out of the lineup with an ailment. If that’s the case, my money would be on Datsyuk getting a game or two of maintenance to ensure that he doesn’t make any soreness worse down the stretch.
We’ll find out for sure within the next 30 or so hours as the Red Wings get set to take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Mantha will most likely be making his NHL debut.