After scoring just 48 points in 2017-18, his first full season in the NHL, fans have been waiting for Mantha to get over the hump and become the 30-goal scorer he has been projected to be since being drafted 20th overall in the 2013 NHL draft.
He took a big step this year, matching his point total in 2018-19 in 13 fewer games, but if he can stay healthy, next season will be the ultimate litmus test.
This looks really good for Mantha in his second full NHL season. The only blemish being is offensive goals for. He was on the ice for 38 goals for compared to 40 goals against, according to Natural Stat Trick, but once he was consistently on a line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Larkin (beginning March 23), he was on the ice for nine goals for compared to four against. The nine goals for was second on the team to Larkin’s10.
Mantha is a streaky scorer, but as long as Jeff Blashill keeps him on a line with Larkin and Bertuzzi, we should see an improvement in his goals for.
The second consecutive season with 48 points doesn’t look great, but as mentioned earlier, he did it in 13 fewer games. He also managed to increase his goal count by one.
It’s also reassuring that he matched his career shooting percentage of 12.6 this season, meaning his goal production this season shouldn’t be an outlier.
Ideally, you’d like to see a bit more production from him on the power play, but if the Red Wings start using him on the half boards like Team Canada has used him during the World Championships, then you’ll start to see those goal numbers increase.
As you can imagine, Mantha put up dominant possession numbers; his 54.24 Corsi for percentage led the team. But his 48.72 goals for percentage is not so hot. Granted, the team as a whole struggled to keep the puck out of its own net, but once the defense starts to improve, we will see a better goals for percentage.
The Mantha-Larkin-Bertuzzi line dominated the opposing team’s top line for the last few weeks of the season, and it was a welcomed change for Red Wings fans, who usually see their team pinned in the defensive zone.
Mantha will be entering a contract year after signing a two-year, $3.3-million deal last summer, so if he hits the 30-goal mark, he could be in for a big payday next summer.
As long as Blashill keeps him with Bertuzzi and Larkin and uses him properly on the power play, 30 goals should be easily attainable for the 24-year-old.
If Mantha’s World Championships production (seven goals and five assists in seven games) is any indication of the type of season he’ll have, Red Wings fans will be in for a treat. Of course, one tournament does not define Mantha’s improvement, but if properly utilized, Mantha can be a dominant force.
Mantha was one of the bright stars for the Red Wings during the 2018-19 season. He had stretches of inactivity, but he finished the season strong with 17 points in his final 18 games. If not for the hand injury, which was Mantha’s fault for fighting, we could have seen him reach 30 goals.
I know he earns the respect of his teammates when he does fight, but Mantha is the last person who should be fighting, especially now that he has a history of hand injuries.