The Capitals’ newest player, Anthony Mantha, talked about his no-frills arrival in Washington after the team’s morning skate on Tuesday.
Mantha said in his conversation with reporters that he was asleep when Red Wings’ trade with the Capitals was announced and he snoozed through a call from Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman.
“I actually woke up to a text saying, ‘Call me, ASAP’ from Stevie,” Mantha said. “You just call him right away… He just told me I got traded, best of luck, and thank you for everything I did in Detroit.”
Mantha, who was in Raleigh for Detroit’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, went down to the rink to say goodbye to his teammates. He grabbed his equipment and then was given car service to DC.
“We’re excited to have him,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s a big body. He’s got a lot of skill and a great shot. He can skate well. We’re excited to get him here and have him going.”
Laviolette placed Mantha on the Capitals’ second line with Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie during practice.
“We think he’s a top-six forward,” Laviolette said. “This is a starting point. He plays the right side as well. Again, it’s a starting point for tonight.”
As for leaving a rebuilding team for one with Stanley Cup aspirations, Mantha couldn’t contain his excitement.
“It’s awesome,” Mantha said. “I woke up from a nap, I was a new Capital member. They’re first in the league right now.”
What are your thoughts on coming to DC and joining this group?
Anthony Mantha: I’m excited. Obviously, it was a surprise yesterday. Woke up from a pregame nap and all of a sudden I was traded. It was a busy day yesterday traveling down here. Ready to go today. It’s going to be a fun journey.
You were in Raleigh when the trade happened. Did you just take a car service up?
Anthony Mantha: Quick car service. Dinner on the road and make it to the hotel.
Did the call wake you up from your nap?
Anthony Mantha: I actually missed the phone call. I actually woke up to a text saying “call me asap” from Stevie. You just call him right away.
Did you speak with Steve Yzerman about why the team moved on from you?
Anthony Mantha: We had a quick phone call when I woke up before Detroit’s game last night. He just told me I got traded, best of luck, and thank you for everything I did in Detroit.
How did you feel about the trade?
Anthony Mantha: Excitement. Surprise. I had just signed a deal in Detroit so I thought I was going to stay there for a couple more years. It’s part of hockey. It’s part of our life. A new beginning over here and I’m excited to join the Caps.
You’re skating with Backstrom and Oshie. What type of opportunity do you think that will open up for you?
Anthony Mantha: It’s going to be awesome. They’re two great players. I’m excited to see what I can bring to their duo and hopefully it clicks right away and we score a couple tonight.
Are you comfortable on both wings?
Anthony Mantha: I am comfortable on both wings.
You went from a team that wasn’t going to make the playoffs to one that has Stanley Cup aspirations. What’s the feeling when you have that change?
Anthony Mantha: It’s awesome. I woke up from a nap, I was a new Capital member. They’re first in the league right now. For me, it’s a huge opportunity and obviously, a lot comes my way in the way I want to play hockey over here.
What do you think you can bring to this team?
Anthony Mantha: I think I can bring a lot of offense over here. The style of play the Caps play will fit (me well). Obviously, I’m excited. I’m going to play a big body, I’m going to shoot a lot of pucks, and try to make great plays.
What is it like to be teammates with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom – two legends of the sport?
Anthony Mantha: It’s going to be awesome. I’m probably going to learn a lot from them. This morning, it was obviously the first practice, but just looking at them pass and shoot the puck, it’s just awesome to see.
When the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, they were a big heavy team. How do you think you fit with this group?
Anthony Mantha: I think I can play physical over here. Obviously, I’m a big body. Try to bring some good one-on-one battles, win them, create some offense, and shoot the puck. I need to shoot a couple of shots per night. The percentage is always on your side when you do shoot so hopefully you score a couple.
What was it like just dealing with the immediate aftermath of the trade and saying goodbye to Red Wings teammates you had known for a long time?
Anthony Mantha: That was hard. I made my way down to the rink just before they played just to say goodbye to everyone. I grabbed my gear and off I went already. But it’s been guys I’ve been around for four to six years and I’ve made great friends down there. Obviously, it’s hard to leave a team but I’m excited about what’s ahead.
How do you reflect on your time with Detroit? They drafted you and it seemed like you were going to be a big part of the rebuild.
Anthony Mantha: It’s hard to leave a team like that. I had great memories from draft day to my last game. It’s going to be memories that live on. I made great friends down there. I’ll probably be in Michigan for the summer so I’ll see those guys again. From now on, I’m a Caps player and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.
The playoffs are fast approaching. How long do you think this acclimation process will take?
Anthony Mantha: I’ll try to make it happen real quick. There’s only a couple games left in the regular season. I’ll try and push for a couple days. A week or so. And try to get to know everyone better. Hopefully, it goes quick.
Anthony Mantha: I’ll be honest, it’s the first time I got traded in my hockey career. Even in juniors. I’ll just let it be. I’m a pretty chill person. I think it’s going to pretty easy to hang out with a couple guys or whatnot. I’ll just let it be and hopefully, it goes by quick.
Is it a relief to play new teams after leaving your division?
Anthony Mantha: It’s a new challenge. In the years prior, I played against all those guys: Pittsburgh, Boston, New York. It’s going to be exciting see new faces out there. A lot of trades that happened in the last couple days. Seeing new bodies in new places. It’s going to be all fun from here.
Did you have any conversations with the Capitals coaching staff about expectations moving forward?
Anthony Mantha: Phone calls and just texts came in a lot yesterday so I talked a little with the coaching staff. The GM quick. A couple players texted me. Obviously, everyone just welcomed me. This morning, I did a little bit more video session and things like that.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 13, 2021
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