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Anthony Mantha ready to fight to ‘earn the jersey’

DETROIT >> Last year at this time, Anthony Mantha had a realistic shot at making the Wings’ roster out of training camp.

This year it appears he’ll be a longshot to do so.

“Realistically, I think it’s going to be a struggle for him to make the team,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “I use the word “earn the jersey.” You’ve got to come in and take a job.

“We probably got 14, 15, 16 forwards we think can legitimately fight for a spot on the team,” Holland continued. “I’m not even sure if Anthony is in that group.”

His attempt to make the Wings out of camp was slowed considerably after getting his skate caught in a rut and suffering a fractured right tibia during a rookie tournament game in Traverse City.

That sidelined him all of training camp, where he was slated to get some time on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Mantha, who was taken by the Wings 20th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, struggled in his first season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, scoring 15 goals and to go with 18 assists in 62 games.

This came on the heels of scoring 57 goals and 63 assists in 57 games for Val d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was also named the CHL’s Player of the Year.

At the Wings’ annual development camp in Traverse City, which began Friday, Mantha gets a chance to re-establish himself as a player that’s close to making an NHL roster.

“I’m here a little bit more confident than last season,” Mantha said. “I need to keep showing stuff to the organization in this camp and I need to come in September and be ready for a fresh new start. My goal is the same, to play in the NHL, so I need to come here and be ready and have a better season for sure.

“It was difficult, especially right off the bat like that after coming off a great season,” Mantha continued. “It’s a fresh start right now and I hope it’s going to go upward from here on.”

His lack of offensive production didn’t go unnoticed and Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano made it known saying the organization was “very, very, very disappointed” in Mantha’s performance.

“I didn’t really listen to his comments,” Mantha said. “We were in playoffs. I talked to (Jeff Blashill) a little bit and he just told me to keep playing my way. So we tried to just keep that aside.”

Then reports surfaced as Detroit prepared for the draft and free agency that Mantha was no longer untouchable and could be available in a trade if the right offer came along.

“As for the trade rumors, if they wanted to trade me, they would have and if not, I’m still here and my goal is still the same,” Mantha said. “I want to play for Detroit.

“It’s part of adversity,” Mantha added. “You need to build through it and come out stronger. I was telling myself, I had the rest of the playoffs to show them wrong and I tried building off of that. I had a few good games, a few bad games in playoffs but that’s part of hockey.”

But Mantha struggled in the playoffs as well, scoring just two goals to go with two assists in 16 games.

And know he finds himself in the second tier of players like Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Nosek to make the Wings out of camp.

“We think they are going to be Red Wings,” Holland said. “Are they going to be Red Wings in September? They got to come in and knock somebody out of a job.”

The Wings have 11 forwards under contract for next season and four more restricted free agents to sign before camp opens.

Mantha also has fallen behind Dylan Larkin on the depth chart.

“It always has been,” Mantha said when asked if his expectation this year will be to make the Wings’ roster out of camp. “I won’t lie. This is the same this year. I need to come here and maybe try playing a few exhibition games. I’ve only had one in two camps so far so I obviously aim for quite a few exhibition games this year and build off of that and try to make the lineup for sure.”

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Anthony Mantha has a job with the Detroit Red Wings, if he can take it

DETROIT >> For Anthony Mantha it comes down to one thing: If he wants to make the Detroit Red Wings’ roster this season, he has to beat someone out.

“He’s going to have to beat someone out,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Thursday. “I think everybody has potential, some have more than others. If you don’t live up to that potential it really doesn’t matter.”

And it’s not just one of the 12 forwards Detroit dresses on a nightly basis, but one that’s slotted to be 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. “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’ll have to beat out to make the jump from juniors to the NHL are 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, 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.”

The Wings appear ready to give Mantha, won’t turn 20 until September, every opportunity to make the team out of camp.

“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 is in Traverse City attending his second development camp that runs through Tuesday.

“They gave us the message to be every-dayers starting last year and that’s what I’m trying to do this year,” Mantha said. “It’s just about being calm, coming out here and doing what I should be doing here. If I’m doing the right things then I’ll get my chance. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself.”

And he continues exude that level of confidence he did at last year’s training camp.

“I came here last year with that mentality and I’ll go to the main camp with the same mentality because you want to be an NHLer one day in your life, and as soon as that can come I will make every little step that I can do get there,” Mantha said.

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.”

Quote of the day … Mike Babcock on rookie Anthony Mantha

TRAVERSE CITY — Wings coach Mike Babcock when told Anthony Mantha’s wants to reach the NHL as soon as possible.

“I don’t want to break the news to him he ain’t making the team,” Babcock said. “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 mean time you get to play juniors or the American League.”

Mantha turned 19 on Monday.

Mantha still confident he’ll be with the Wings sooner rather than later

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.