The NHL is becoming a young man’s game. Younger players over the last few seasons have made major impacts on their teams. The Red Wings, who are trying to rebuild on the fly, are going to need to see contributions from their rising stars. Three players in particular have emerged as the future of the franchise. These three players include Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha. But the question is, which one of them has the brightest future? Lets dive in and see.
Double A has done nothing short of electrifying the fans in his 101 game career. In that time frame, we have seen him make some of the most creative and thrilling plays, such as scoring a Datsuykian like end-to-end goal and embarrassing Jason garrison with a double spinorama. It is plays like this that really get you out of your seat and say “wow.”
Combine that with his game breaking speed, and I think it is fair to say the only player in the league that may be faster than him is Connor Mcdavid. Athanasiou’s incredible skill gives him possibly the highest ceiling of anybody in the Detroit organization. Athanasiou has produced at the NHL level as well. Over the last two seasons, Athanasiou ranks 2nd in 5v5 goals, despite playing an average of 11:00 5v5 TOI.
Andreas Athanasiou now tied in 5v5 goals with Ovechkin, Kane, Kucherov, Marner and Atkinson despite playing 200-300 fewer minutes than them.
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) February 12, 2017
Athanasiou has all the tools to become an elite NHL player, and as he gains more experience his ice time should increase. Anytime someone is compared to Pavel Datsyuk, you have to be excited for their future.
Larkin over the past two seasons has had his ups and downs. After surprising many by making the Red Wings roster as a 19 year old, becoming the first teenager since Jiri Fischer in 1999 to make the Detroit lineup, he has many high expectations placed upon him. Larkin lived up to all the hype after putting up 45 points, and leading the Wings in goals (23 goals) in his rookie season. However he endured a sophomore slump, scoring only 17 goals and 32 points.
Nevertheless, Larkin is still a dynamic forward who has tremendous speed. He is one of the fastest players in the NHL, and could do things with the puck at such high speeds that most players can only dream about. The hope is that he will eventually become the Wings 1st line center one day, and he possesses the skill and speed to do it, he just needs to continue to improve his consistency and adjust to how players defend him. As we saw last season, defenders were able to keep his speed to the outside by backing off. Larkin for the first time in his career is facing some adversity, and if he is able to overcome it, there is no reason to doubt the bright future he has in Detroit.
Mantha, The biggest of the bunch, Is coming off his rookie season where he performed at a very high level. Following his draft year Mantha put up dominant numbers in the QMJHL, scoring 81 goals in 81 games (Regular season and playoffs combined.) He would go on to become the CHL player of the year. Some other players who have won CHL player of the year include, Sidney Crosby, Connor Mcdavid, Eric Lindros, and Joe Sakic. Ever since then Mantha has had many eyes on him.
What makes Mantha such an exciting player is that he has an excellant combination of skill, skating abillity, and a great shot that is not normally seen in big players. At times Mantha can be dominant, when he is on his game, there are not many that can stop him because he is so big.
This past season, Mantha put up 17 goals and 36 points in 60 games for the Wings. At certain moments, he would do something that would leave you speechless.The most memorable moment was when he essentially broke Alex Galchenyuk’s ankles with a filthy toe drag, which lead to this reaction from Chris Johnston:
Anthony Mantha, are you kidding me?
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 22, 2017
Which one has the brightest future?
Back to the original question, who has the brightest future? In the end, I believe it is Anthony Mantha. Players with his skill level and size don’t just grow on trees. Ever since his draft day, he has shown he should have been a top 5 pick. While Athanasiou and Larkin both have great futures ahead of them, Mantha shows he has everything it takes to be a legitimate 1st line winger one day. I hate using the term “untouchable” because you never know what kind of offer you can get for them, but Mantha should be untouchable to the Red Wings, and I believe he is the only player in the organization that should be off limits to the rest of the league.