Anthony Mantha has had a bit more time to develop than most of his peers in the 2013 NHL Draft class.
Born on September 16, 1994, Mantha’s birthday fell one day short of 2012’s cutoff. The Val-d’or Foreurs standout has taken full of advantage of the extra time to grow into his six-foot-three, 200-pound frame.
“My dad and I talked about it over a year ago,” Mantha said. “We knew that I had a year longer (than players born before the cut-off) even when I played an extra year of midget AAA.
“The first year (as 16-year-old) I could have played junior but it was only a benefit to me. If I was picked last year it wouldn’t be in the same place.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise Mantha would lean on a family member for advice. His grandfather André Pronovost won four Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens back in the 1950s and 60s. Needless to say, hockey is in his blood.
But it’s not just his hockey lineage that has the Longueuil, QC product ranked 19th by Future Considerations. Mantha leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in goals with 48. He’s still got a few games left to reach 50 but regardless his total is going to be much improved from the 22 he scored as a rookie a year ago.
It was after Christmas time last year that Mantha’s game started to round into form. He finished up the year by collecting 40 points in his final 25 regular season games before picking up another four points in as many playoff games.
He attributes the improvement in his game to his added strength, spending summers working out with his personal trainer in Boucherville, QC and credits that to the success he’s had on the ice.
“I’ve gained about 20 pounds since the beginning of last year and my confidence has gone straight up,” he said.
That confidence was carried over into the start of the 2012-13 season, scoring 14 goals in his first 14 games. That offensive output impressed linemate Cedrick Henley.
“Playing with him it makes my life easier,” said Henley, a draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres. “I just give him the puck and he scores. He has a lot of speed and he’s big. It’s pretty rare to see a guy that big and fast.”
Still, there’s more to the game of hockey than just scoring goals. According to coach Mario Durocher, Mantha has the opportunity to elevate his game further.
“He needs to compete hard for the puck every shift, take short shifts and things like that,” Durocher said. “Those are things he will learn but he has to be a little more consistent. He knows what he has to do but sometimes things come a little too easy in junior.”
Games will get tougher for Mantha when teams key in on him in the playoffs. It’s going to give Mantha a great opportunity to show what he can do under pressure as his team will lean on him to lead the way.
“It’s going to be the most import part of the season for him. (Scouts) are looking for guys who can work hard and win the battles one-on-one, the playoffs is exactly that,” Durocher said. “We are going to see the way he’s going to use his body.
“He can be in the first 10, he can be in the first 20, he can be in the first 30, and it’s all going to depend on how he plays in the playoffs. The scouts are unanimous about his game, he’s a real sniper.”
If the sniper keeps performing, Mantha might shoot himself up the draft board at the end of June.