There are some players in every draft class that are safe choices. They are virtual locks to play in the NHL, but have limited offensive upside and are mostly likely to settle onto a third line somewhere. Val d'Or's Anthony Mantha isn't one of those players. Mantha is a 6'4", 201 lb power forward who has charged up most draft boards this year due to his QMJHL-leading 50 goals. Mantha's best asset is likely his elite skating, but his shot isn't far behind. Despite his stature, Mantha isn't a prototypical power forward in that he generates a large percentage of his offense from outside the hash marks. He can be a physical presence, but he doesn't need to be to succeed. He can snipe from just about anywhere on the ice, and he's not afraid to shoot, leading the Q this year in shots, with 323, or 4.8 per game. It would be one thing to see a player jump from 22 to 50 goals because of a high shooting percentage, but the development of his overall game mixed with his tendency to choose shot over pass leads me to believe that he can be a dominant scorer in the NHL for years to come.
|2011-12||Val d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)||63||22||29||51||-11||39|
|2012-13||Val d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)||69||50||39||89||+21||71|
Mantha's stock rose even higher in the playoffs, where with 12 points in 9 games he led his team to a first round upset. Overall, the forward has the tools to become a first-line scorer. Some have compared him to Max Pacioretty, in that he is a big body forward whose style of play more resembles a pure striker due to his great skating and powerful wrister. While I don't often encourage comparables, I think this is a case where it fits. The biggest area of improvement will need to be his defensive game and overall consistency. Some scouts worry about his ability and will to win battles along the boards, and he occasionally will look disinterested on the backcheck. That is something that Bergevin and Timmins will need to examine closely. Mantha is also the oldest player in the draft class, as he was born one day before the cutoff for the 2012 draft class. He could have been a steal in the late rounds last year, instead he will be a first-round pick in 2013. And for those impressed by bloodlines, there is already a connection to the Canadiens. Mantha is the grandson of Andre Pronovost, who won four Stanley Cups with the Habs in the 1950s as an undersized forward.
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus:
Mantha is a well above-average skater for a big man. He picks up speed quickly, with a certain smoothness in his skating technique. That skating ability, combined with his 6'4" frame, makes him an intriguing physical package. He does possess some skill, but he is more of a good thinker than a fancy puck handler. He can slow the game down, and he exhibits good calmness, often finding the right plays to make with the puck. He shows above-average ability as a passer. He is a top-end finisher, possessing a bullet shot. When he gets an opportunity to one-time a puck, he winds up high, delivering a lot of weight through the shot. He could use some work defensively, as he is not the most physical of players, but he will bump opponents along the boards.
Mantha, at top speed, is amongst the fastest players straight line in the QMJHL. He loves taking on defenders wide and then cutting in behind them to crash the net. He's also very strong on his skates and can change up his speed, which throws defenders off...He shows the willingness to play an aggressive style and can be very effective along the boards...His shot is very heavy, and is already NHL-calibre. He has very good offensive IQ and is effective at finding scoring areas...His game shows a lot of potential to become a very good defensive player...Some have questioned his hockey sense and decision-making...His consistency can improve as he has moments where he becomes a spectator...Despite his stature, Mantha is not as heavy a hitter or as physical as he could be...however, most of his forechecking and defensive play utilize his reach and speed...He started to really throw his weight around towards the end of the season and that is something NHL teams have wanted to see from him.
Fools goalies with the velocity and casualness of a wicked release...Ratchets up the speed when driving 1-on-1 and can blow past defenders exploiting a rapid change of pace that kicks in a bullet top gear...Feet are adept and powerful, blades stay low to the ice - however his legs are lean and gangly...demonstrates fine poise and puck control in possession and is a deceptively refined passer...likes open space and wheeling in free ice - but his decision making can be rushed when space is aggressively closed down....Must build body strength....Developing an 'inside' game is critical - being harder and more determined in traffic...his shortcomings were only magnified in the playoffs - even if he led his team in scoring.
ISS Rank: 23
Craig Button Rank: 16
FC Rank: 18
McKeen's Rank: 24
Pronman Rank: 22
Hockey News Rank: 24
Average Rank: 21
Personal Rank: 14
Mantha is a player that the Canadiens would almost certainly need to trade up to get, but my sense is that it would be well worth it. Mantha was one of the players that attended the Canadiens' combine, so we know that they are interested, but how badly they will want the Quebec-born forward one can only guess. He will likely be selected somewhere from 10-25, but trading up to something like the 16th or 17th pick (which would probably cost something like 34th and 36th overall) if he's still available then would be a move I would support.