Born: 7/30/1996 Waterford, MI
January 2016, there wasn’t a hotter rookie than Dylan Larkin. In what was a generational freshman class filled with dynamic skill, Larkin was the Red Wings representative at the All-Star game and graced the cover of The Hockey News as “the next Jonathan Toews”.
He showed off that weekend, breaking Mike Gartner’s 23 year old record for fastest skater at the skills competition. Red Wings fans were certain the Waterford native would take the torch from Zetterberg, easing another transition from one great generation of Red Wings to the next.
Fast forward to All-Star break 2017; Larkin only had 18 points in 47 games. Connor McDavid failed to beat his fastest skater time by a couple tenths of a second, yet a controversy erupted online with Larkin’s running start the previous year. Fans (Canadians) essentially stripping his record and handing it to McDavid. Pierre McGuire—among the many pundits touting Larkin’s budding two-way ability in 2015-16—had pointed criticism for his lack of defensive awareness this season, doubting whether he’s capable of playing center.
The buzz turned into a sting on Larkin. Many expecting a 50-60 point season, or some marked improvement somewhere, were left scratching their heads. With the tide of supreme young talent the past couple seasons, he became an afterthought on the national stage.
In just a year, he went from certain Calder Trophy finalist to potential bust.
What He Did vs. Expectation
Has everyone forgotten Larkin’s only 20? I think it’s also been forgotten Larkin also went from playing most games with Datsyuk and Tatar to Glendening and Sheahan (when he wasn’t trying to transition to center). It was a year of drastic change for Larkin. The concern isn’t so much his long term development but his ability to adapt while the Red Wings are going through this period.
I can’t fully absolve Larkin for his struggles. He seemed to get agitated easily and wasn’t aggressive going to the net like in his rookie year. Perhaps he was frustrated being targeting by teams physically. He needs to overcome that, keep focus and fearlessly continue to get dirty if it means more opportunities.
Still, Larkin was often in a role to carry lines offensively. Entering this season it was believable he was ready to put the team on his shoulders. Now it’s clear that was premature.
Larkin hasn’t lost the tools to be a top line player. His world class speed will always be there. He has great vision and a quick release. The offensive IQ and defensive awareness will only improve with more experience.
Ironically, you could argue he should’ve spent (more) time in Grand Rapids. Now he’s two years in, carrying more responsibility and also tasked carrying players who simply aren’t goal scorers. The train is too far down the tracks—the Wings want him to continue progress in an elevated role and he has the burden of meeting these expectations at a young age.
Final Grade: C
I still have faith he’s capable of being an electric player. Someone—along with Mantha, Athanasiou—that will be the foundation for this burgeoning core of prospects.
It was a turbulent season of transition for the organization. Larkin was thrust into this and felt it more than any player. He’ll eventually adapt, he’ll be fine. Remember, he’s only 20.
What Grade Do You Give Dylan Larkin?
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