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Red Wings' Anthony Mantha could be on fast track to big club

Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland spent a good part of the summer defending the club's philosophy of building from within and bringing prospects along slowly - often painstakingly so.

But according to Kris Draper, Detroit's special assistant to the general manager, one player who may be on the fast track to the big club is 19-year-old Anthony Mantha. The QMJHL standout appears in line to bypass the American Hockey League and earn a prominent role with the Red Wings as early as this season.

"Ken (Holland) will be the first to say that goes against his managing philosophy," Draper told "Because of what he's done in major junior he's kind of accelerated (his path) and given himself an opportunity to legitimately be a Detroit Red Wing and an opportunity to crack our top six."

The last Red Wings prospect to make the leap straight from junior hockey to the NHL was defenseman Jiri Fischer in 1999. Mantha, drafted 20th overall by Detroit in 2013, scored 160 goals in 226 games (including playoffs) with the Val d'Or Foreurs, and has a knack for the net that may be too strong to leave off the NHL roster.

Draper maintains Mantha will have every opportunity to demonstrate that he belongs in Detroit.

He'll get an opportunity, whether it's playing on the wing with (Pavel Datsyuk) or (Henrik Zetterberg). But he's going to get an opportunity to play with one of those guys. Then it's really up to him. We all feel Anthony is a special player and somebody who has earned an opportunity to make the big club.

We feel that we have something special in Anthony Mantha. We want him to make the team. We want him to come out and light it up in training camp and preseason games. We open up against Boston and can put a guy out there who is 6-foot-4 on our first line. We would love that. The opportunity is going to be there and it's up to him to embrace it.

If successful, Mantha will not only accomplish what may prospects have failed to do over the past 15 years, but might also bump someone back down to the AHL in the process.

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