Ignoring everything else, from his age to his size and his family history, Anthony Mantha quite simply scores goals. With 33 markers in just 43 games so far this year, the Val d'Or Foreurs forward has already sniped a hat trick on three separate occasions and added in a four-goal game for good measure.
As beneficial as bulging the twine is for any team, Mantha is also just as eager to prove that goal-scoring is not the only thing he can bring to the rink. In fact, the right winger, who stands at 6'3.5" and weighs in at 190 pounds, is committed to proving that he can be a complete player and contribute at both ends of the ice, while also providing a physical element.
For Mantha, his path to the NHL actually starts with his grandfather. Andre Pronovost played in over 550 NHL games in a career that stretched from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s. Along the way, the left winger won four Stanley Cups as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. From the time that his grandson was born and showed an interest in hockey, Pronovost has made sure to share his knowledge and experience.
"He had a huge effect on me when I was young, he taught me how to skate, how to play hockey and how to have fun. He's just so important to me," explains Mantha. "He has helped me all the way up to now. He's showed me how to play, first of all and even now, he gives me tips on what to do on the ice. He knows what he's talking about and it really helps."
Born on September 16th, 1994, Mantha is perhaps the oldest first-year draft eligible player this season. And, while he has had almost a whole extra year to develop compared to some players like Nathan MacKinnon (who was born on September 1st, 1995), the forward still has a similar amount of on-ice junior hockey experience to his fellow draft-eligibles. After being drafted by Val d'Or in 2010, Mantha stayed in major midget hockey for an additional season before joining the team as a rookie in 2011-12.
In any case, Mantha still believes that his age has provided him with an edge in preparation and growth, not only physically, but also mentally.
"It's an advantage for sure. I should be stronger and taller than some other players. I had a year more to concentrate and improve my hockey sense and get better. I think it really does help me out."
As a first year player with Val d'Or last season, Mantha's play could be best described as two separate halves. At the end of the 2011 calendar year, the rookie had only three goals and 11 points in 36 games. But he seemed to find a groove in the second half of the year and scored at a torrid pace down the stretch, culminating with his first career QMJHL hat trick in his last regular season game of the year. Mantha finished the year with 22 goals and 51 points in 63 games, scoring a remarkable 40 points in the last 27 games of the season.
Despite this strong finish, it wasn't enough to lead his team to post-season success. Finishing in the bottom half of the league standings, the Foreurs bowed out of the playoffs in a first round sweep at the hands of the Rimouski Oceanic. Mantha produced at a point-per-game rate in the series, with two goals and four points.
Although it was a disappointing result after such a scorching second half for the young forward, Mantha was soon back on the ice as a member of Team Canada's Under-18 team. Playing in the Czech Republic, Mantha had a single goal in seven games as Canada won the bronze medal.
Entering into this season, his sophomore year in the QMJHL, there were many questions on whether Mantha could continue to put up the points like he did during the second half of his rookie campaign. To date, he has answered that bell and then some. In 43 games, the big forward has already set career high marks in nearly every offensive category. His aforementioned 33 goals are rank him third in the league in that category, while his 62 points places him fifth in league scoring. He is also second in the league in shots with 188.
"I think I'm playing great, since the beginning of the year, I've been doing everything good. I just need to continue like that for the rest of the season," says Mantha. He continues by describing himself as primarily a scorer for Val d'Or.
"I am an offensive player. I can play defensive as well, like PK; I do that for Val d'Or. I am a power forward for the team." Mantha adds that he still has plenty to work on, mainly adding strength to his frame.
"I think battling one-on-one, I especially need to work on that, but I am getting better."
Unfortunately for Val d'Or, Mantha's offensive productivity hasn't resulted in notable improvements when it comes to the QMJHL standings. After finishing 10th last season, the Foreurs currently sit 11th in the league, but there is reason to believe they could surprise in the second half of the QMJHL season.
"I think the team is getting better and better. We made a few trades during the Christmas break and think that will help us be better," explains Mantha. The deals he referred to brought in veteran scorers like Brandon Hynes, Loik Poudrier and Pierre-Maxime Poudrier who have been able to step in and contribute right away. The team also looked to improve defensively, adding goaltender Philippe Trudeau and defenseman Randy Gazzola in an effort to fix some shortcomings in that area.
Eager for another shot at the QMJHL playoffs, Mantha is also looking forward to the NHL Draft. Invited to play at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game as a member of Team Cherry, Mantha is ranked 10th among North American Skaters in the recently released NHL Central Scouting Service's Midterm Rankings. He is well aware of the attention he receives when he steps on the ice, but has tried to make sure it does not affect the way he plays his game.
"There are a lot of scouts around during this season, but I think it's only pressure if we put it on ourselves, so we'll see at the end what happens and we'll go from there."
Mantha and the rest of Team Cherry will face off against Team Orr on Wednesday, January 16th at the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
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