I'm sure that most of you have been wondering when this day would come. Anxiously checking the Winging it in Motown page every morning as you drink your coffee, awaiting the article about our prospect from the tippy-top of the rankings. Today, my friends, is that day. When the Red Wings took Waterford, Michigan native centerman Dylan Larkin at 15th overall (the highest draft pick the team has had since Martin LaPointe), I was excited. A homegrown kid, solid two-way player, fast, big frame, elite-level skating. I had thought of him to be the perfect third line center, basically what we wanted Darren Helm to be.
After departing with the US National Development team, Larkin went to the University of Michigan as a freshman, where he made an immediate impact. The six-foot-one power forward found himself playing a large role with the Wolverines as an every day second-line center and utility power play/penalty kill specialist. Not only is Larkin pegged as a power-forward-type player with skating abilities that are next-to-none, he's developed into a serious offensive threat mixing pure hockey sense, spectacular vision, and blazing speed. Here's a personal favorite goal of Larkin's that showcases these attributes:
Dylan Larkin is no doubt the best prospect in the system right now, and it's all thanks to his ability to simply dominate at every level he plays at. Larkin was named Big Ten Rookie of the Year, and was also named to the Second All-American Team in the NCAA. He achieved this by being the second-most scoring freshman in all of college hockey, behind Buffalo Sabres' top prospect Jack Eichel, who was taken at 2nd overall in 2015. Larkin put up 15 goals and 32 assists during his tenure with the University of Michigan, which registered him at 1.34 points-per-game. While he's not a prominent goal-scoring threat, his playmaking abilities are what make his style of play so lethal. Here's an example on his ability to see a play, react, and execute:
Larkin also represented his nation in the 2014-2015 World Juniors, where he scored five goals which tied him for most goals scored in the tournament with Max Domi, Sam Reinhart, and Curtis Lazar - Larkin being one year younger than all of them. While Team USA did not earn a medal in the tournament, Larkin was named as one of the top-three players on his team. Not bad, but his year was certainly far from over.
After his freshman season, Larkin was named to Team USA for the World Championship - His first chance to play hockey against professional athletes. While he didn't post a ton of points (one assist in ten games), Larkin served as a role player in the bottom six. His abilities to be a mainstay on the penalty kill, and make smart defensive plays helped Team USA earn a bronze medal in the tournament.
Here's where things get crazy. Just four days after the World Championships, Larkin had made his decision to leave school early, and start his career playing professional hockey. His contract was announced as a three-year entry level deal, and he was immediately assigned to Grand Rapids on an ATO so that he was eligible to play in the Calder Cup Playoffs immediately.
While the Griffins playoff run fell short, Dylan Larkin showed the hockey world that he is exactly what people have been saying he was - A world-class talent. In six games, Larkin scored five points, and began to mesh well with his teammates. I'm not sure what it is about the kid, but you simply know when he's on the ice. Everything flows better, and moves faster. I guess you could say that Larkin makes his teammates around him better. While his fate for next season has yet to be seen, at the very least Larkin will start his development as a professional hockey player with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Of course, the recent injury to Pavel Datsyuk could see some very big shoes to fill for the 19-year-old center. That's right, Dylan Larkin could very well start next season in the NHL. While he may not spend the entire duration of 2015-2016 in Detroit, it speaks volumes that the organization and new head coach Jeff Blashill are willing to put such a young player into a big role.
Dylan Larkin rules and everybody loves him. He looks like Miles Teller except without the punchability factor. Dylan Larkin once saved a puppy orphanage from burning down by dowsing it with counterfeit Canadian Tire dollars he had captured from a truck driven by Eugene Melnyk's evil nephew. He knew the chemicals in the fake dollars were fire retardant. He smells like lavender and can cook minute rice to perfection in only 38 seconds.
I got a brief look at Dylan Larkin in the Griffins' Game 4 against the Utica Comets this past spring. For only his fourth professional game, he certainly didn't look out of place against what was a very good Comets team. Larkin is a great skater, and fast, though I remember at least a few times where he inexplicably fell down with no one near him. It could have been nerves or just needing sharper skates (and I'd suspect the latter since he never seems rushed or panicked when he plays), but it was definitely noticeable. He showed good vision and passing skills with his cross-ice assist on Xavier Ouellet's second period power play goal and for the most part played a good overall game. He did take a roughing minor and ended a minus-one, but was well behind the play on the second Utica goal that gave him the minus. It's a one-game sample size in which the entire Griffins team just wasn't playing in sync, but flashes of what we're all excited about definitely showed. Larkin played a lot of hockey last year, so to keep moving up to bigger and more difficult opponents and continue looking like he belongs when he plays was in itself impressive.
JJ - #1
Graham - #1
Kyle - #1
Michelle - #1
Jeff - #1
Joe - #1
Caleb - #1
Christian - #1
Prashanth - #1
Lauren - #1
What a shocker... We all think he's number one.
So there you have it. Dylan Larkin is the number-one Red Wings prospect, and there's a good chance that he won't be a prospect for very long. I say that because I fully expect this kid to step into a role with the NHL club in the next two years. He is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting players the Red Wings have had in their farm for a long time. Also, he will never be traded, so just shut up with all that.