When the Detroit Red Wings elected to choose Waterford native and USA National Team Development Program’s Dylan Larkin with the 15th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, it was evident they saw something special in the young man. The organization tends to find diamonds in the rough, picking late in rounds due to their long-standing success of the past 23 years, but were in unfamiliar territory, picking right in the middle of the pack. Martin Lapointe (1991) was the last Red Wing to be drafted as high as Larkin, helping the Wings win two Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998.
Lapointe’s style of play included a gritty mentality, as he was not afraid to go to the dirty areas to create chances. Lapointe threw his body around, occasionally dropped the gloves, and used his frame to his advantage. In the end, Lapointe would get the team about 15 goals per season to go with 40 points, helping his team win when it mattered most, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Larkin’s style of play includes a mentality of hard work similar to Lapointe’s, including strengths that could help him succeed in the faster pace that the National Hockey League brings today.
“He has a fine but not outstanding amount of skill, but gains the offensive zone very often due to his skating ability. Larkin has average size (6-0, 192 pounds), but he’s pretty strong on the puck and has a fantastic on-ice work ethic. He drives the net, muscles out opponents in battles and gets back on defense effectively. He kills penalties well and he can be a shorthanded scoring threat. Another plus: Larkin plays both wing and center effectively.”
-Cory Pronman, ESPN, from Malik Report
“Larkin is a scrappy two-way center who consistently injects relentless energy in all three zones. Larkin has been a very good offensive weapon thus far throughout his career, but projects to be a secondary scorer in the NHL with the ability to shut down the opposition’s top line. He is a gifted skater who pushes the pace of the game and is tough to push off the puck. With 29 goals and 49 points in 53 games this year in the USHL, Larkin created offense by making simple plays rather than pulling flashy, risky moves.”
-Rotoworld, from Malik Report
One needs speed to succeed in a possession-dominated era of the game, and Larkin has that tool. It can only get better, as he progresses through college at the University of Michigan and throughout the organization. Larkin’s ability to be flexible in playing on the wing and center is a bonus for whoever is behind the bench for matchups and other situations. The tenacity Larkin brings to all three zones makes him a dynamic forward that helps a team succeed in any situation.
This fall, Larkin started his collegiate career at the University of Michigan. He’s made an immediate freshman impact, and has been one of their most consistent players, posting three goals and 16 points in 15 games, tied for second on the team in that regard, and first among all Big Ten freshmen. He’s also fired 58 shots on goal, the most on the team, ahead of senior Zach Hyman. Corsi and Fenwick fanatic? Here’s your guy. His play impressed across the board, and earned him a roster spot on Team USA for the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships, along with three of his teammates.
On the American side, Boston College’s Jack Eichel received most of the hype, and for good reason, projecting to go either no. 1 or 2 in the 2015 Entry Draft. However, it was Larkin who stole the show for Team USA. From the moment he was paired with Minnesota’s Hudson Fasching, the connection clicked, and it reflected from the pair’s play. Larkin was a regular penalty killer and 4 on 4 player, receiving more ice time from head coach Mark Osiecki as the tournament went on. In the end, Larkin finished the tournament with five goals and seven points, again leading his team in shots on goal with 24 ahead of Eichel’s 21.
Larkin and his linemate received accolades for their success.
— 2015 World Juniors (@HC_WJC) January 2, 2015
Larkin’s alma mater enjoyed to see him succeed as well, and seem to be thrilled to have him back in Ann Arbor after a Great Lakes Invitational W without him and his teammates.
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) January 2, 2015
It was an unfortunate end to the tournament, with team USA losing in the quarters to Russia for the second straight year, but for the Detroit Red Wings organization and fanbase, it was truly exciting to see Dylan Larkin succeed on the big stage, representing his country the way he did.
With Larkin’s hot start on his path to the NHL, the Red Wings will be keeping a close eye as he moves up in the organization. He may not wear the Winged Wheel for a few more years, but it will surely be exciting to see him develop into the Detroit Red Wing many have projected him to be.
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Quotes courtesy of Malik Report, Rotoworld, ESPN
Statistics courtesy of MGOBLUE and IIHF
Tweet quotes courtesy of IIHF and University of Michigan Hockey