Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha and coach Jeff Blashill talk Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City. Video by Helene St. James/DFP

Mantha had 4th best points-per-game average last season, poised to start this season as top six guy

TRAVERSE CITY — Anthony Mantha is ready to show just how much he learned from last season and just how ready he is for a more prominent role this season.

The Detroit Red Wings need their 2013 first-round draft pick to take a step forward, and the forward sounds ready for the challenge. Mantha understands that if he wants to excel, he needs to work hard every game; understands he can’t quit on plays; understands, for that matter, why he got beat up by a guy who is now a teammate. 

Mantha’s maturity appears to be paying off as early training camp has him in the top six, on a line with Dylan Larkin at center and Justin Abdelkader on left wing. It’s a trio that boasts physicality, speed and net-front presence. The key for Mantha, as has been hammered home to him over and over, is to skate to his ability.

“When he moves his feet on a regular basis, he is excellent,” coach Jeff Blashill said Sunday. “He’s just got such a skill package. He’s 6-5, he can really skate, he can really shoot it, he’s got offensive sense. It’s hard to duplicate that.”

More Red Wings camp stories:

Petr Mrazek wants to be 1-2 punch with Jimmy Howard

Dylan Larkin full of confidence after overseas stint

Can Trevor Daley help Danny DeKeyser regain his offense?

Mantha had 17 goals among 36 points last season in 60 games; the fourth-best points-per-game average on the team at .60. As with Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, Mantha was at his most productive when he played with Henrik Zetterberg, and so that is one of the challenges Mantha has to answer. 

“The one thing we need for sure is for guys to be able to play with other guys and still produce offense,” Blashill saId. “I think him and Larkin and Abdelkader can produce lots of offense. We just have to continue to work on his habits and moving his feet all the time.”

More: Analysis: How to maximize…