NEW YORK -- Even as he focuses on his squad, Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill keeps an ear out for news on the club’s prospects.
And Anthony Mantha has made noise during the young AHL season, completing a hat trick earlier this week in reaching five goals in three games for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I heard he played good, and that’s great for us,” Blashill said this morning at Madison Square Garden. “The more guys down there playing great, the better off we are. We are going to need to use more than the 13 forwards that are currently available to us through the course of the year. You know how the year goes, between injuries and things like that.
“The more guys playing good, the better. And I heard he played good last night.”
The Wings sent down Mantha, their first-round pick from 2013, at the end of the exhibition season. He was instructed to follow the pattern of Gustav Nyquist in 2013, when Nyquist dominated in the minors and earned a permanent call-up.
Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco (currently rehabilitating an injury) all had dominating performances at the AHL level before making the jump to the NHL.
The Wings all but assured that Mantha would start this season in the minors with the July 1 signing of right wing Thomas Vanek, but Vanek has backed up that decision so far with five points in three games.
Mantha, meanwhile, also is doing what he should be doing.
“When I see five goals in three games, when I hear that he is playing the right way, when I hear he is doing those things, now he is starting to get to dominate,” Blashill said of Mantha. “You want a player to dominate the level below to make sure he is ready to do the same thing at the level above. It’s impossible to expect a player to be big-time offensive player up here if he wasn't down there.
“I think he has great steps in the right directions. As I told him, he looked like he’d improved a vast amount. He’s much more ready to step in. Now he’s got to be ready to jump through the window of opportunity whenever that window comes. His job is not to dictate when the window comes, his job is to make sure he is ready.”