TRAVERSE CITY – No one will ever say that Anthony Mantha isn’t a confident kid.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to be there,” Mantha after the Wings selected him with the 20th selection at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. “I’ll show everyone, every team, and the Red Wings that they did not take the wrong guy.”
Detroit was able to trade down in the draft, from 18, to get the big left winger at No. 20.
And his confidence level hasn’t subsided after taking part in the Wings’ prospects tournament and training camp.
“It would be close to the top right now,” Mantha said Monday when asked where his confidence level is at. “I live for the moment and I’m just playing how I should play. I think the details are coming in and that’s why I’m still here and I’ll keep playing that way until the end.
“I wasn’t expecting that much from the prospects camp, but it was great hockey out there,” Mantha continued. “We had fun at the same time, with us winning. It was a great week. Then, I enjoyed the training camp with all the veterans. It’s been incredible, just a few years ago I was watching these guys play and I was hoping one day that would be me out there. The day came and it’s really exciting for me.”
Tonight in Pittsburgh he’ll get to show off his talents against the likes of Sidney Crosby.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Mantha said. “I’m playing in Pittsburgh tonight, it’ll be a dream coming true for me. I’m pretty excited.
“We were laughing about yesterday, like I’ll ask (Crosby) for an autograph at the faceoff, just kidding about it,” Mantha added. “He’s one of the greatest players out there and playing against, even if he’s not on my team, just watching him I can learn a lot off it just watching him play. I’ll try to manage not get scored on by him tonight.”
The left winger, who’s 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, had 50 goals and 39 assists in 67 games last season with the Val d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior League. He was also a plus-21.
He was the only 50-goal scorer in the draft.
“You need to learn every day you’re out here on the ice,” Mantha said. “There are such good players out there that every day you can learn something new. I just watched at the end (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Jakub) Kindl play one-on-one, he has one of the best pair of hands in the league and he still practices it. It’s all the details that make the difference.”
Mantha, who grew up a Montreal fan, is going to do whatever it takes to get in a Wings jersey as soon as possible.
“My approach is really to make the big team next year, if not, in the next two years,” Mantha continued. “I will show them everything that I can to be there without having to go to the minors.”
Mantha, who has two years of junior eligibility remaining, will likely return to juniors next season and will turn pro the following year.
“I’m close, but at the same time I’m so far,” Mantha said. “There are so many players out there. If it’s not this year I’ll go back to my junior team and work on every detail that I can so when they call me up anytime they’ll have confidence in me to play here one day.”
Mantha, who helped lead Team Canada to capture a bronze medal at the 2012 Under-18 World Championship, recorded five hat tricks last season and was named to the QMJHL Second All-Star Team.
He understands how the Wings like to have their talent mature at the American Hockey League level before bringing them up to the big club.
“It’s kind of tough because every guy wants to play in the NHL right away,” Mantha said. “I mean, they carry their youngs in hope that they’re ready to play some day. You need to take your chance out of that. The learning process for them is going through the AHL, for me if I can play in the NHL one day I’ll do that process with no problem.”
It was the fourth straight year the Wings have taken a forward with their top pick – Martin Frk (2012), Tomas Jurco (2011) and Riley Sheahan (2010).
Mantha is the grandson of four-time Stanley Cup champion Andre Pronovost, who played 556 games for Montreal, Boston, Detroit and Minnesota between the 1956-57 and 1967-68 seasons.