Washington Capitals winger Anthony Mantha is having his best season since before he was traded to the Capitals in April 2021. He has scored 15 goals in 43 games. His scoring pace would set a new personal best of 27 goals in a season. The rest of the team has not been as successful this year. Washington has only an 18.3% chance of reaching the playoffs, according to the most recent predictions at HockeyViz. Here’s a closer look at Anthony Mantha’s value as one of the only players to stand out for the Capitals this season.
Anthony Mantha’s Value Exceeding Recent Expectations
Mantha was generally regarded as an under-performer in his first two and a half years in Washington. Originally a first-round draft pick, he was acquired to be a top-six player. The Detroit Red Wings received two draft picks and two players in the trade. However, he totalled only 58 points (24G, 34A) in 118 games before this season. His average time on ice has been declining since the trade, and he’s been scratched a handful of times. In 2021-22, he scored a mere 23 points, his career-low in a season with more than 10 games played. He was reportedly available for trade during the most recent offseason. He played on the fourth line in the season opener and was scratched for the next game.
Now over halfway through the season, Mantha is second on the team in goals. He is three goals ahead of All-Star selection Tom Wilson and six goals ahead of Capitals all-time goal leader Alex Ovechkin. He leads the team in 5-on-5 goals (14), is third in individual high-danger scoring chances at even strength (38), and is one of only four Capitals players with a positive goal differential. Despite averaging a career-low 13:55 of playing time per game, he has some of the strongest underlying numbers on the team at even strength. The numbers here and below are sourced from Natural Stat Trick.
Even Strength Advantage
In 12:15 of average 5-on-5 time per game, Mantha has the best goals per 60 minutes (1.59) and points per 60 minutes (2.05) on the Capitals roster. His individual points percentage of 75% is second only to Aliaksei Protas, one of his most frequent linemates. His IPP is higher than Wilson, Ovechkin, and Dylan Strome. All three average about a minute more of even-strength play as first-liners. Mantha generates a team-high 4.32 individual high-danger scoring opportunities per game. With him on the ice, the Capitals have scored 61.54% of the high-danger goals.
Mantha has played most of this season as part of a line with Protas and Connor McMichael. The unit has spent nearly 240 minutes on ice at 5-on-5. With them on the ice, the Capitals have an expected goal percentage of 52.79. Without them, that rate is 43.36. In the Capitals most recent game, the lines changed and Mantha played alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Max Pacioretty. According to MoneyPuck, that combination had the highest Fenwick percentage of any of the Capitals trios at 57.1%. None of the lines had expected goals above 50% in that game.
The Capitals will return to action on the 5th. They’re scheduled to play the top two teams for both divisions in their first two weeks back from their bye. How they fare in the first half of February could determine Mantha’s longer-term fate with the team. He is in the last year of his current contract. His salary counts for $5.7 million against the salary cap.
If the Capitals playoff chances become even more of a long shot, the team could decide to trade him. With his consistency & contributions this season, Anthony Mantha’s value is the highest it has been in years. His current statistics are quite similar to what he had when the Capitals acquired him. In April of 2021, he had 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points in 42 games. Right now, he has 15 goals and 8 assists for 23 points in 43 games. The Capitals sent Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, and two draft picks to Detroit when they acquired Mantha. Should the Capitals trade him, he probably won’t fetch quite as high a price as that, since he’s approaching 30 years old. The Capitals know they need to get younger, so General Manager Brian MacLellan would likely ask for at least one prospect in the 20-25 age range.
Main Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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