DETROIT >> Anthony Mantha’s bid at making the Wings’ roster out of training camp has hit a six-to-eight week road bump.
The team learned Thursday that Mantha suffered a fractured right tibia in Monday’s rookie tournament in Traverse City.
“It is what it is and there’s opportunity for other people,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We worried more about the cartilage. Then the next morning he woke up and his knee was swollen, so obviously his body was sending a message that something’s not right. So we put him through some tests.”
The injury occurred when Mantha got his skate caught in a rut and then got hit. He however was able to finish the game.
“He couldn’t really protect himself,” Holland said. “He’s going to be in crutches for a while to take the weight off. We think somewhere around six weeks he’ll be back up and running and skating and from there back playing. In the meantime we got lots of other people looking for opportunity.”
The Wings were going to give Mantha every opportunity to make the team out of training camp, but he would have to beat out a forward in the top six.
“When we open with Boston (on Oct. 9) and the coach says to me he wants Mantha in the lineup he’s in the lineup,” Holland said over the summer. “If he’s in the lineup it’s because basically we think he’s going to be a top six forward. I don’t know we’d put him on the fourth line and play him eight minutes.”
With Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as locks on one of the top two lines, the skaters he would have had to beaten out to make the jump from juniors to the NHL were the likes of Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco.
“And does he do something special, bring some ingredients that complement the Zetterbergs and Datsyuks that the coach says to me that we need him to win the first game against Boston and I want him in the lineup,” Holland said. “If that’s not the case, he goes to Grand Rapids and we’ll go through the development process and develop him into that guy.”
Mantha was on the Team Delvecchio roster at training camp along with Datsyuk.
“I know Mike Babcock wants to give Mantha some opportunities with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, with our best players,” said Holland, who selected Mantha 20th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. “We have eight exhibition games and I know we want him to play five or six. After we’ve watched him play for three weeks and we get to the end of September or early October, he’s got to take somebody’s job.”
Mantha, who’ll turn pro this season, has done all that he could in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League totaling 107 goals and 102 assists over the last two regular seasons, while adding 29 goals and 21 assists in the playoffs.
He also received the Michel Briere Trophy as the QMJHL MVP this past season.
“It appears he can score,” Holland said. “You don’t score as much as he has over the last couple of years. Not many can score as he’s scored in his tier group and he’s produced at the world juniors.”
But playing at that level is much different than playing in the NHL.
“Lots of times in those leagues scores are 5-4 or 6-5, while we play a lot 2-1 and 3-2 games,” Holland said. “So if you don’t score what else do you bring to the table? If you don’t score can you kill a penalty, are you good defensively, can you win physical battles, can you protect the puck down low, can you forecheck and force the defense to make mistakes.
“It’s more than just can you score,” Holland continued. “Unless you can score 80 goals, and nobody scores 80 goals let alone 50 goals.”
Last year, Babcock didn’t take long to burst Mantha’s bubble of making the team out of training camp.
“I don’t want to break the news to him but he ain’t making the team,” Babcock said last training camp. “He’s got to go back to juniors and learn to be an every-dayer. When you compete every day and when you compete on every puck, get strong enough, live it every day and one day you get to play here; in the meantime you get to play juniors or the American League.”