Sunrise, Fla. — Justin Abdelkader was asked about Anthony Mantha after Friday’s loss in Carolina, and was talking about all the things Mantha brings to the lineup.
Abdelkader came to an interesting comparison, one that hasn’t been brought up often before.
And it does fit.
“He kind of reminds me of Johan Franzen,” Abdelkader said, harkening to the big power forward whose career was derailed by concussions.
Franzen, too, was a large forward who could shoot the puck hard, was a fine skater, and had deft hands.
“He was big and strong and could skate and shoot,” Abdekader said. “Mo can play any type of game that is needed.”
In this Red Wings’ season that is careening out of control quickly, Mantha has been one consistent bright spot.
Mantha scored two goals in Friday’s loss, giving him nine for the season, which ranks among the NHL league leaders.
It’s that one-timer that Mantha possesses that is so dangerous, especially this season.
The accuracy has improved, the velocity appears even better, and Mantha is getting rewarded for the work he put in over the summer on it.
“His shot sticks out to everyone,” Abdelkader said. “He’s a big body that can really skate. He’s really good on the power play. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now which is huge.
“Hopefully he can continue to have a shoot-first mentality because his shot that good.”
Mantha worked extensively during the summer, hoping coach Jeff Blashill would move him from the net-front to the flank on the power play.
“I knew at the end of the year I finished on the half wall and maybe I was going to start there this year,” Mantha said. “I didn’t want to give Blash any other spot on the power play to give me, I wanted that one and to stay there.”
Blashill feels the move for Mantha has benefitted Mantha and the team.
“We took him off the net-front because we felt his shot could be a weapon,” Blashill said. “It’s proven to be true. Originally we put him on the net-front to help the power play, (but) it was also to help him understand the importance of getting to the net – in all aspects of the game, not just the power play.
“I still think it’s important for him to continue to fight to get to the net. But he certainly has proven to be a real good shooter on that power play on that flank.”
Mantha has expressed his confidence this season, feeling he’s able to score whenever he has the puck on his stick in an offensive position on the ice.
Blashill has definitely seen a more confident Mantha this season.
“He is a guy who when he gets opportunities, he believes in himself and he is going to score when he shoots the puck,” Blashill said. “He’s been more consistent in his skating and his approach but I still think there’s growth (potential).”