Sunday, September 19, 2021

Washington Capitals 2021-2022 Previews -- Forwards: Anthony Mantha

Anthony Mantha

“For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.”
— T.S. Eliot

The scouting report from on Anthony Mantha reads as follows: 

  • Assets:  Is a natural goal-scoring talent with great size and instincts for putting the biscuit in the basket. For a big winger, he skates very well, too. Displays great hand/eye coordination. Can play either wing position.
  • Flaws:  Needs to work on his play at the defensive end of the rink, as well as his game-to-game consistency, in order to maximize production at the National Hockey League level. Takes a few too many shifts off.
  • Career potential:  Big, goal-scoring winger with upside.

Short version…lots of talent, but inconsistent.  In his first four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, his career arc looked promising, his goals per game rising with each season until he finished the 2018-2019 season 25-23-48.  He maintained a 0.37 goals per game in his fifth season and set a career high 0.88 points per game, but he was held to only 43 games played due to a series of injuries.  Last season he managed 11 goals and 21 points in 42 games with the Red Wings before he was shipped to the Caps for Jakub Vrana and a pair of draft picks, a trade that had the look of exchanging players who just didn’t seem to be playing up to their potential that a change in scenery might cure.

Odd Mantha Fact… Last season was the first of his six NHL seasons that Anthony Mantha failed to record a game-winning goal.

Odd Mantha Fact II… Mantha recorded goals in 15 games last season with Detroit and Washington.  His teams went just 7-6-2 in those games.

Fearless’ Take… Anthony Mantha has all the tools – size, good scoring instincts, decent skating.  He grew more inconsistent as time wore on in Detroit, a team that has struggled mightily I recent years.  Perhaps the team’s misfortune denied him sufficient inspiration to fully express his skills on a night-to-night basis.  He certainly gave fans a glimpse of the possibilities last season when he scored goals in each of his first four games and posting a 4-2-6 scoring line in his first six games with the Caps after arriving from Detroit. 

Cheerless’ Take… Yeah, cuz, and after that hot start, Mantha went 0-2-2 in his last eight regular season games and 0-2-2 in five postseason games.  And it was not as if he was getting his ice time pared back; he averaged more than 18 minutes in those last eight regular season games and more than 17 minutes in the postseason.  And for a player built as sturdy as he is (6’5”/234), he has missed a lot of time to injuries. Only once has he dressed for more than 70 games in a season, although he did appear in all 56 games last season, split between the Caps and Red Wings.

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021…

  • 100 career goals (currently 99)
  • 200 career penalty minutes (196)

The Big Question… Will featuring Anthony Mantha on a scoring line, with as much talent as he will have around him, lead to more consistency in his production?

Mantha has the talent to be a 20-plus goal scorer, perhaps a 30-plus goal scorer, but he has shown that only in spurts in his six-year career to date.  He can play on either side, but with Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie slotted in the top-two right wing positions, it would seem Mantha will get a look at second-line left wing behind Alex Ovechkin.  This likely means getting a lot of quality time working with Nicklas Backstrom, whose ability to find teammates in high scoring areas is almost, if not unmatched in the league.  Players have slumps, especially over a long season, but “slump” and “inconsistency” are not necessarily synonymous.  Mantha is in a situation where he can conquer the latter. 

In the end…

Anthony Mantha is entering the chronological prime of his career (he just turned 27 years of age).  He will be skating in an offense-friendly environment with veterans who have had varied and accomplished careers to date.  There is little pressure on him, save the thought, “don’t suck.”  He is that player one speaks of when they talk about benefitting from a change of scenery, especially when the departure is from a struggling franchise.  He does not have to be a lights-out, 35-goal scorer, but posting fewer than 20 could be reasonably regarded as a disappointment. 

Projection: 79 games, 20-22-42, even