Teenagers aren’t supposed to make the Detroit Red Wings.
It’s a pillar we rely on for comfort in this crazy hockey world of ours, and now Dylan Larkin, 19, is mucking it up.
But if he’s good enough for Detroit’s brass and good enough to start the season on a line with Henrik Zetterberg, then yeah, there may be something there. “He’s a two-way, 200-foot player,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland. “He has a lot of will, a lot of determination and he’s got a big motor.”
Larkin was the Big Ten’s rookie of the year last season, posting 47 points in 35 games for Michigan. A state native who relished the chance to play in Ann Arbor, the young center admitted it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the Wolverines after just one season. Having seen Larkin play so well at the world juniors, Team USA’s brass invited him to play for the men’s World Championship squad in the spring. “That was a whole experience itself,” Larkin said. “I thought I had a pretty good World Championship, and after skating with those guys, I knew I wanted to be a pro.”
Larkin played a checking role on a team that won a surprise bronze medal, shutting out Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr and the host Czechs 3-0. For Holland, it was a tipping point: his shiny prospect proved he could thrive in any role. “I told Dylan and his parents that whatever decision he made, we were good with,” he said. “He’s a unique player for me in that he can play top-six or bottom-six. He’s going to be able to do lots of things that can be used by the coach.”
Perhaps lost is that Larkin is still eligible to play for Team USA’s WJC entry this winter. But it now goes without saying that he won’t be going to Finland. Through 28 NHL games, Larkin has 11 goals and 11 assists and is squarely in the discussion for the Calder Trophy.
In the meantime, Larkin is getting used to a world in which Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are no longer guys he sees through a TV screen. “Ever since I can remember watching the NHL, they’ve been playing,” he said. “But it’s not as intimidating now that I know them a little bit. I’m excited to learn more from them.”
Too bad the University of Michigan won’t give him course credit for his work at Joe Louis Arena.
This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in the November 9 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.