AHL graduates say it on a regular basis: as it turns out, it’s a little easier to play in the NHL, as both a skater and a goaltender, because the NHL’s players are more talented, thus reducing the level of chaos in the game.
Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk both told CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield that they’re finding the NHL to be simpler, more straightforward, and yes, “easier” than the AHL:
“I’ll be honest, I think it’s easier up here than in the American League,” said Anthony Mantha, who reached the 20-goal plateau last weekend in his first full NHL season.
It was a response that raised eyebrows, from a 23-year-old who typically draws attention for his play. Don’t mistake it for flippant — Mantha can appreciate the challenge of gaining a foothold in the NHL as well as anyone on the Red Wings’ roster. And certainly don’t mistake it for a player who thinks he’s already arrived.
Take it, rather, for a glimpse into Mantha’s perspective. He’s played over 100 games in both the AHL and the NHL. He was stuck between the two leagues for the better part of two years. Some felt the Wings weren’t giving him a fair shake; the Wings felt he needed to earn it.
His performance last year — 17 goals in 60 games — was the statement the team was looking for. Jeff Blashill rewarded him with a bigger role this season and Mantha has once again answered the bell.
“As soon as you come up here and get your chance and get some confidence going, it makes everything way easier,” Mantha said.
“As you mature and you gain experience, obviously you can slow the game down a little bit, compared to the American League (where) everyone’s just going 110 miles per hour and sometimes you have two or three guys on you. The structure’s not always on point,” Mantha said. “It’s just a different mindset, if I could say.”
Martin Frk agreed…
“If you get a lot of ice time, you play with the good players, so it gives you a better chance to put more points up and feel more comfortable on the ice,” said Martin Frk, who spent most of his career in the AHL prior to this season. “It’s definitely still a tough league, playing in the NHL, but it can be way easier if you have good players around you and you play a lot.”
And Mantha spoke with Burtchfield about his personal goals for the season as well…