Sunday, 14 June 2015

Can the Canadiens trade for Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha?

Damien Cox reports that, after being considered an untouchable prospect, Anthony Mantha, the Red Wings' huge scoring winger, might be available in trade talks.  Even after a drubbing in the media, that doesn't mean that he'll come cheap.

In a relatively deep draft in 2013, it's surprising that a player of his size and offensive talent lasted until the 20th pick.  The knocks on Anthony Mantha were inconsistent production and effort, and the fact that he was a late birthday player, meaning he was close to a year older than some of the guys he was up against in his draft class, yet wasn't correspondingly better.

At the draft, he was on the floor being interviewed by La Presse and RDS accompanied by his grandpa, former Canadien André Pronovost.  The kid said all the right things, that he accepted the criticism as a challenge, that his grandpa spoke to him about going all out 100% effort and that he vowed to do so, and everyone was all smiles and the future seemed great.  He seemed like a great character kid with a strong family background who was learning how to be a pro, a player.

Sure enough, the next season Anthony did take a huge step in terms of effort and veteranship, and scored at a goal per game pace and led the Foreurs to the Memorial Cup tourney, and shone there too.  The Wings seemed to have a keeper, and we all claimed we knew we should have moved up to nab him.

And based on that clip of Jarmo Kekalainen, the Columbus GM, having a terse conversation with Marc Bergevin and telling him he didn't want to trade his pick, and based on Marc Bergevin's appearance on Dave Morissette, I have a strong hunch that the Canadiens GM did try to move up in the 2013 draft to get him, and a season later regretted not trying harder.

Fast-forward to now, and loose cannon Jim Devellano shot his mouth off again and blemished the young prospect somewhat.  He didn't take to the AHL as well as they might have hoped, apparently had an up and down year but with decent enough production.

To me, I'd evaluate his first pro season as evidence that the kid is greatly talented but still needs to work on his effort level, on consistency, as he stated he would and did his last CHL season.  It's still a work in progress, you be patient with him, you work with him, but still accept that he sees the play and the ice differently.  Like when some observers knock Max Pacioretty for not killing guys in the corners or mucking it up in front of the net, it just may not be his style, the best use of his talent, despite the size.  Maybe he's the guy who lurks like a shark for a loose puck, finds the open spot, like Luc Robitaille did.  You don't ask that guy to be Travis Moen, you just demand that he play hard and responsible, but hold it there.

Maybe, and I'm going to stretch it immensely here, he's a bit of a project like Stéphane Richer, tremendously talented but with holes in his game, and inconsistency, but you live with it, because no one else around can do what he can, not by a long shot.  So if he has a 23 goal season one year, you take a breath, be patient, keep working with him, hold him accountable but show a little flexibility, since the year before he scored 45, and next season he might get you fifty if he's cruising.

This is all pretty much academic to us, if you ask me, since I believe the Red Wings would want to trade him as part of a package to move up in the draft, or hit a giant trade for some help in their current lineup, not our spare parts we're trying to unload for cap relief.

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