2013 Draft Eligibles: Anthony Mantha, from the Valley of Gold to the City of Brotherly Love?

It seems that Sean Couturier has become the popular comparison for NHL draft prospects eyeing a roster spot in their draft year. Tom Zulewski compared Sean Monahan to the Flyers’ forward, and others have raised associations between Couts and Rimouski Oceanic forward Frederik Gauthier. The latest to be linked to the former Drummondville Voltigeurs star is Anthony Mantha.

Image courtesy of QMJHL Images

Mantha and Couturier have nearly identical size, immediately drawing a link between the two players. Both also entered the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) as pure scorers, who play to put the puck in the net. Couturier altered his game to be more defensive, which is the primary reason he stuck with Philadelphia right out of the gate. Mantha has hopes to repeat that fate and earn an NHL roster spot due to his two-way play and not just his scoring ability.

After being selected by Val-d’Or in the fifth round (76th overall) of the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft, Mantha had to prove he was more than just a scoring threat. NHL teams desire players willing to grind it out and play hard in all three zones, not just the offensive zone. In his rookie season last year Mantha struggled adapting to the level of play in the QMJHL. Before the Christmas break, Mantha only tallied three goals and eight assists with a minus-10 rating in 36 games for Val-d’Or. Since the break, Mantha has been one of the most lethal weapons in the CHL. He finished the season on a tear scoring 19 goals and adding 21 assists in 27 games.

Image courtesy of ca.sports.yahoo.com

The Val-d’Or winger possesses an impressive size and skill combination that wows anybody who watches him play. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 200 pounds, Mantha is a man amongst boys on the ice in the ‘Q’. His goal total this season also suggests domination over his peers. He picked up right where he left off at the end of the 2011-12 season with his prolific play in his sophomore season. Mantha was one of only three players in the entire CHL to reach the 50-goal plateau, and the only one in the QMJHL. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Mantha went longer than two games without a point just once throughout the 2012-13 season. His 89 points were good for second on the Foreurs behind Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Anton Zlobin. If you add the postseason numbers for both scoring threats, they each finished the year with 101 points.

But, Mantha’s skill-set goes far beyond the point department. After ending his rookie campaign with a minus-11 rating in the regular season and a minus-9 rating in four playoff games, Mantha began concentrating on his two-way play. Along with his coaches, the big winger entered this season determined to improve his defensive zone coverage. The intelligent winger displayed his hockey smarts with a rapid development of his in-zone play, which showed in the plus/minus department. This season Mantha finished with a plus-21 rating, which was good for a tie for the team-lead.

Image courtesy of canadiens.nhl.com

Part of Mantha’s swift learning curve is due to his family influences. His paternal grandfather, Andre Pronovost, enjoyed a long NHL career spanning 556 games with four NHL teams ranging from 1956-67. Pronovost was a member of the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens earning Stanley Cup championships in his first four professional seasons. Mantha’s great-uncle, Jean Pronovost, played 998 games from 1968-81 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Flames, and Washington Capitals. Jean’s brother, Marcel, won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing in 1206 NHL games from 1950-69. Needless to say, Mantha’s family reunions provide more valuable hockey knowledge than he could find anywhere else.

Mantha admits he still gets hockey tips from his grandfather, which has helped him become a harder worker on and off the ice. His hockey IQ is off the charts; couple that with his natural abilities and he is one of the most sought after prospects in the 2013 draft class. He was born one day too late to be eligible for last season’s draft, which has given him an opportunity to mature and grow before he gets selected in this upcoming draft.

This season Mantha has worked on his two-way effort, as well as improving his one-on-one battles. For a player of his size, the Montreal-area native should be more effective working out of the corners against smaller opponents. Mantha continues to work each day to strengthen his core and concentrate on his areas that need improvement. As he becomes a more complete, all-around player, Mantha has caught the eye of scouts, earning him the 10th overall ranking amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s mid-season and final rankings prior to the draft.

Mantha will be available in the Flyers range when they pick at No. 11. I know defense is a major concern within the organization, but adding a player like Mantha could help Philly regain the image they desire. Over the past couple of drafts, the Flyers have focused on bigger players who possess a strong size and skill combination. Mantha would fit perfectly with the Orange and Black, providing silky hands and a pure scoring touch that is now coupled with a physical, two-way presence.

For those of you who have the time, or just don’t want to focus at work, here is a long video compiling every one of Mantha’s goals from this season.