The Detroit Red Wings’ two most recent first-round draft picks didn’t waste any time getting acclimated at the team’s 2014 Development Camp.
Anthony Mantha (20th overall in 2013) and Dylan Larkin (15th overall in 2014) skated on a line during the first day of camp at Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City, Mich. Friday.
"He’s a great player," Mantha said of Larkin. "We’ll go through a few practices to bring out the chemistry and we’re going to see at the end of the week how this are going with the scrimmages."
Larkin, a Waterford, Mich. native, got a little taste of why Mantha was named both the Canadian Hockey League’s Player of the Year and the QMJHL’s Most Valuable Player this past season.
"He’s such a good player," Larkin said. "We were playing in tight and he’s such a big body. He definitely protects the puck well and you can see why he was a first-round pick."
Mantha led the CHL in scoring during the 2013-14 season, notching 81 goals in 81 regular-season and playoff games.
He also totaled 120 points in 57 regular-season contests and added 38 points in 24 playoff games for the QMJHL-champion Val d’Or Foreurs.
Although he will only turn 20 years old in September and is expected to make the jump from the QMJHL to the AHL next season, Mantha understands that he could be a beneficiary of the youth movement within the Red Wings’ organization sooner rather than later.
"The team was starting to get old, I think the rookies, well the younger guys, they had a great thing this year coming up," Mantha said. "Guys like (Tomas) Tatar and (Tomas) Jurco and (Riley) Sheahan. I watched them the whole year through and I think I can build off them and try to do the same thing."
Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill is working to make sure when and if that time comes, prospects have a seamless transition into the Wings’ dressing room.
"We’re trying to break every day down into a core habit that is important for guys to be successful to play for Mike Babcock in Detroit and to play for us in Grand Rapids," Blashill said. "So today we worked a lot on taking away the other team’s time in space, making it hard through angling, through being above people through cutting off, through doing those types of things."
At his first Development Camp one year ago, Mantha learned the importance of being an every-dayer, a term that is often used within the Wings’ organization, and he will continue to carry that mentality into training camp this fall.
"I came here last year with that mentality (to win a job) and I’ll go to the main camp with the same mentality," Mantha said. "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."
But he knows it won’t be easy.
"I think it’s just about being calm, coming out here and doing what I should be doing here," Mantha said. "If I’m doing the right things then I’ll get my chance. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself."