If the name Dylan Larkin somehow eluded you in the time since the Detroit Red Wings selected the Michigan-born center with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, you certainly had plenty of opportunities to become acquainted with the freshman playing for the Michigan Wolverines of the NCAA.
Almost straight out of the draft, before he played a game for Michigan, Larkin acquainted himself with the Red Wings at their summer development camp.
"It was a really exciting experience," Larkin told Winging It in Motown over the phone. "Everything was happening so fast. I just got drafted, and I was planning to go to Traverse City."
"I'm excited to go back this year. It'll be my second year, learning more, knowing what to expect."
Talking about his first taste of pulling a Red Wings sweater over his head with his name on it, he said, "Wearing the Winged Wheel, it was exciting."
Larkin certainly had the potential to be an impact player when the Red Wings originally drafted him last summer out of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Maybe he wasn't slated for NHL duty anytime soon, and if the Red Wings already had plans for him, they didn't tell Larkin about them.
"I haven't had a conversation with them like that," Larkin said, talking about when the Red Wings might expect him to turn pro. "I don't think my advisor has [either]."
This isn't to say that his own future doesn't matter to him. As an incoming freshman with the Wolverines, he just had a very different set of goals to accomplish for himself.
"My goal was to make the World Junior team and focus on that."
Larkin did not simply "make" Team USA for the 2015 World Junior Championship, Beyond the Detroit and Michigan spheres of influence, Larkin very well put himself on the map for the rest of the hockey world. Larkin was Team USA in this past tournament. He led the team in goals with five and points with seven, playing in all five games. No other Team USA player had more than two goals or more than four points. Larkin was the only Team USA player in the top 30 in tournament scoring.
He had no expectations about making the team in the first place. "I never really felt that I was a lock to make the team," Larkin said. "I talked to the coaches, and they told me to have a good start to the season."
"I had the chance and I made the team. It was pretty exciting. I grew up watching that touranment closely, and just to play in there and the prelims was an honor."
He also didn't quite expect to have the tournament he did, but he's aware of the role he played in taking Team USA as far as they went.
"It was a good feeling to know that you contributed to whatever the team did. I felt I was a big part of the team and how we played, and you just have that feeling that I did most of what I can control to help the team."
Now Larkin is back to playing college hockey for the Wolverines. He's currently second on the team in scoring with 25 points in 18 games. In the three games since the World Juniors, Larkin has five goals and four assists for nine points.
That increased production is no coincidence.
"I think coming back from the World Juniors, I have a lot more confidence in myself," Larkin said, "carrying the puck and making more plays and talking to my linemates who are playing really well and supporting me. We wanna take the next step and start dominating and playing a big role in how our team's going to do moving forward."
"Moving forward" is the only thing on Larkin's mind right now. "Now, [my goal is to] take our team to the NCAA tournament."
The Red Wings have to be ecstatic to have added such a dynamic player to their prospect ranks. Much the same way as Anthony Mantha tore up juniors last season, Larkin dominated the World Juniors and now is looking to tear up the remaining Big Ten opponents on Michigan's schedule for the rest of the season. He's already off to a strong restart to the college hockey schedule, and will be looking to keep that run going.
As for his potential NHL future?
"I haven't really thought much about what the future is because it is a long way away," Larkin said, "but personally, I want it to be as early as possible when I get the opportunity."
Q&A from the rest of the WIIM staff
Favorite Wu-Tang song? What is that?
Do you read about yourself on the Internet? No . . . Actually, I kind of read tweets.
Would you be honored to have someone name their dog Dylan Barkin after you? No. That's pretty funny though.
Favorite Power Ranger? I don't have one.
Alfredo or marinara sauce? Alfredo.
Would you rather beat Michigan State for the NCAA title or Canada for the gold medal? Ummm . . . Michigan State, but it's really close.
Would you like to play with Blake Wheeler so your line can be named Wheelin' and Dylan? No. I mean, he's a good player, but no.