Winger Anthony Mantha is heading into his first full season with the Washington Capitals. He will likely start the 2021-22 campaign on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, something he is very is excited about, but knows there will be challenges.
“I’m excited about the line in general. To play with Ovi is unreal and Kuzy’s such a good player – he calms the play down,” said Mantha following practice on Tuesday. “So for me it’s just to be intense, I try to win my one-on-one battles down low, try to come out with the pucks, put pressure on their defensemen and create turnovers.”
Mantha played with Kuznetsov some last season, and knows he needs to be aware on the ice.
“He’ll find you. I think it’s the same thing as playing with Backy last year. He’s able to find you wherever on the ice you’re going to be at,” said Mantha. “To try and play smart, and just open up at the right time, maybe set a little pick for him to skate. You know he loves to carry the puck. Let him do his thing. Like i said, open up and try to find the open area.”
Mantha is learning to play with Ovechkin as a linemate, something that he says is not easy, but an excellent challenge for him.
“It’s actually harder than people think. You want to give it to him, but obviously the defensemen knows you want to give it to him, too. You need to kind of play it smart, maybe thrown a little fake shot, and then pass it over. I think we are three great players, and we just need to take the open play,” said Mantha.
“I think he thinks about shooting, shooting, shooting. It’ no secret. That’s his game. He’s always positioned properly, to get that one “t” [timer] off, or that quick shot. And he’s quick, too. When he decides to wheel in the neutral zone, and he wants the puck wide, you better give it to him, because he is just flying. It’s awesome. It’s going to be an excellent challenge for me to play with those two, and I’m excited for it.”
Mantha could also get time on the half wall on the Capitals power play this season. It’s something he’s done before.
“I actually just started off at net front, right now. I did play maybe a year and a half on the half wall, in the NHL. I started off as a net front in Detroit, but all my years, if you go back to Grand Rapids, or juniors, it used to be on the half wall. If i do play there, I think it’s a couple games to get back into it, a couple practices, and i think it would come naturally.”
The Capitals return to the ice for their second preseason game on Wednesday when they host the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena. The Capitals open the 2021-22 season two weeks from tomorrow when they host the New York Rangers and Capital One Arena.
By Jon Sorensen