Washington Capitals: Predicting who will be an X-factor in 2021

Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Washington Capitals will be returning 99 percent of their same lineup from last season, however, that doesn’t mean this upcoming season’s X-factor isn’t an unfamiliar face. That’s exactly who will be an X-factor this upcoming season. It’ll be trade deadline acquisition Anthony Mantha.

Mantha is a versatile forward who could slot in the second or third line. Expect him to take the second line when the Caps open up the season on Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers. Mantha made an immediate impact in the lineup after the team brought him on at the trade deadline, scoring a goal in four straight games before being held off the scoresheet since.

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Mantha had trouble staying out of the box in the playoffs but he was also adapting to a new team while being thrust into the middle of playoff action. He went from playing for an underachieving Detroit Red Wings team to a Stanley Cup contenting team in the Washington Capitals.

Expect Mantha to have a solid first full season with the Caps as he’ll have the benefit of an 82 game schedule to adapt to his new team. Mantha has the potential to have a 20 goal season perhaps even tying or passing the 25 goal mark that he set in the 2018-19 season. Perhaps he could even have his first 30 goal season, something that Jakub Vrana could never do.

Why did I bring up Jakub Vrana? It’s because that’s who the Caps gave up after the team sensed a frustrated player that just couldn’t adapt to Peter Laviolette’s new systems. It escalated so bad that Vrana even said he wasn’t going to re-sign when he became a restricted free agent. So the Caps decided to deal him away for Mantha.

I think this is a trade that both sides can benefit from. The Caps get a younger player with a bigger body as he’s one of a few that’s under 30. In fact, he’s 26. The Red Wings get a player that’s hungry for a bigger role and he’s getting it with his new team. Good for him.

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There are other players who can be X-factors but their names are too obvious. You got Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and even young bucks like Daniel Sprong. Though Mantha is one player that doesn’t get talked about enough right now but will be talked about a lot this upcoming season. It’s up to him whether the conversation is good or bad.