Joining the Washington Capitals as part of a stunning blockbuster with the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline, expectations were high for Anthony Mantha.
Mantha was replacing fan favorite and Jakub Vrana, a breakout player just hitting his stride but also experiencing inconsistency and possibly frustration with his game, according to general manager Brian MacLellan.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to shake the team up… things lined up, and this is what we ended up doing,” MacLellan said at the deadline. “[Mantha’s] a player we’ve liked and talked about a lot in our room, and we had a chance to acquire him, so we went out and got him.”
Given the circumstances, what can we expect from the 26-year-old next season?
First, let’s break down his time so far in D.C.
Mantha got in 14 regular-season games with the Capitals to close out the season. He got off to a hot start with his new team, netting a goal and assist in his Washington debut and riding a four-game point streak. By the end of the year, he finished with four goals and eight points with the Capitals for a total of 15 goals and 29 points between Detroit and Washington in 2020-21.
Despite the Capitals’ first-round exit, the Quebec native was perhaps one of the team’s top performers in five games against the Boston Bruins. He led Washington with 88 shot attempts and a goals-for percentage of 75, and he also ranked first in SCF% (scoring chances for) among Capitals skaterrs with at least two games played at 65.43 . Mantha also finished in the top 4 for high-danger corsi for percentage (50) and expected goals-for percentage (64.11).
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Looking at his on-ice play, he’s been a solid fit on the top-6. He’s played with speed and confidence, made strong passes and didn’t shy away from calling his own number. In addition, he played well in his own end as well, using his size, physicality and skating ability to his advantage.
“I’ve played with him a long time. He’s got, like, the complete package going on,” longtime teammate Nick Jensen said of Mantha. “Most people think big, strong, it’s more of a physical game, but you can’t underestimate the amount of skill he has.”
Mantha’s a strong player who should continue to adapt to head coach Peter Laviolette’s systems. The 6-5, 234-pound forward is versatile and able to play on either wing, and he’s also a player who can make those around him better, while also forming chemistry with those around him. Over the course of his career, he has also shown that he’s capable of being a 20-goal scorer. It’s just a matter of maintaining consistency.
From what the Capitals seen so far in a relatively small sample size, signs point to him being a major asset going forward. He has continued to improve his all-around game, and that showed in the postseason. Now, in a full 82-game season — and more time to adjust to his new club — he has the opportunity to thrive and become a difference maker.