Dylan Larkin is a Player You Should Be Excited For

From the get-go, I knew that we had a extraordinary player in Dylan Larkin. Michigan-born, Michigan-raised, playing college hockey at THE University of Michigan.. The kid is a prime example of homegrown talent.

After a season riddled with injuries, Detroit found themselves with with the highest draft pick (15) they have ever had since they took Martin LaPointe at 10th overall in 1991. Plenty of intriguing names were available at the time it was Detroit's to motion, but the lure of a homegrown talent like Dylan made it a no-brainer for the Wings. I remember early on in the 2013-2014 season, I wanted them to pick Larkin, even though I didn't know where they would end up in the standings.

Dylan Larkin is the top-scoring freshman in the Big Ten Conference so far this season, and is second in overall assists among freshmen in Division I College Hockey. Number one is Jack Eichel, one of the most alluring 2015 NHL draft prospects. Dylan has garnered 2 goals, and 13 assists in 14 games so far. It's clear to me: He could very well end up being one of college hockey's top-performing freshmen. Here is a look at Division I's top-ten freshmen in terms of points-per-game (PPG):

GP Goals Assists Points PPG
Jack Eichel Boston Univiersity 15 8 17 25 1.67
Danton Heinen (BOS) Denver 13 6 10 16 1.23
Brady Ferguson Robert Morris 13 6 9 15 1.15
Nick Schmaltz (CHI) North Dakota 13 2 12 14 1.08
Dylan Larkin (DET) Michigan 14 2 13 15 1.07
Landon Smith Quinnipiac 16 7 9 16 1
Jonathan Charbonneau Mercyhurst 13 3 9 12 0.92
Tyler Pham Army 17 6 9 15 0.88
Brett Seney Merrimack 17 6 9 15 0.88
Spencer Foo Union 16 7 7 14 0.88

Due to NCAA rules and regulations, Dylan is unable to attend main training camp for Detroit, but he is eligible for prospect development camp. I had the opportunity to watch him there this offseason, and you can just tell he's got all the tools to be a special player, who can take it to the next level. Given he keeps going at this pace, we could likely see him in the Detroit system after his sophomore year at Michigan.

I had reached out to SB Nation's Michigan blog Maize n Brew, and did a little Q & A with Joe (he covers Michigan's hockey program for MnB) on what he sees in Detroit's 15th overall pick. He also provided a little summary in his own words after the questions:

How much of an impact has Dylan Larkin made to this Michigan hockey team? What stands out most about the way he plays?

Early in the season the Wolverines weren't getting scoring from three of their four lines. While coach Red Berenson shuffled his lines trying to find the right combination, the Larkin line became a reliable source of offensive production and kept this team from sinking. Continued offensive production from the Larkin line has helped propel Michigan out of the early hole and back into contention.
What has been most impressive to me is how Larkin sees the ice and reacts to the speed of the game. He's always in the right spot to make a play and that "wow" play that he makes every game seems to come with relative ease.

I noticed that BTN had commented on how the Kile - Larkin - Hyman line was the mainstay for this team so far this season. Would you agree?
This line was put together in training camp and is the only line that hasn't changed this season. The chemistry was instant between Alex Kile and Zach Hyman with Larkin centering the line, and they have become the team's top scoring option. The speed of Larkin is the catalyst and the impact he brings to the line with pure speed and skill is enormous. He enters the zone in transition with almost no contention because defensemen give him bigger gaps and his line is free to go to work. Alex Kile has set new career highs in goals and assists, Zach Hyman has matched career highs in goals and assists and Larkin leads all Big Ten freshman in scoring. The coaches could tell early on this was going to be a special combination and they haven't disappointed.

Given the way he is playing and producing, how long do you expect Dylan to stay at the collegiate level?
Two seasons at Michigan is reasonable to expect. The poise and adjustment to the speed of the game Larkin has shown since he took the ice in the first game is on the level of what you would expect from an upperclassman. The Wings don't need to rush him but after two seasons he'll be ready to make the jump to the NHL.

I had the pleasure of watching Dylan at Red Wings development camp during the summer. You can just tell the kid has leadership in his blood. Even though he’s a freshman, do you see him being a leader on his team?
It's tough for young players to be vocal leaders, but where Larkin has excelled has been as a leader by example with his play on the ice and in practice. He brings intensity, an unparalleled work ethic and a 200-foot game. Larkin has earned a reputation as a player who never takes a shift off and that style of leadership has already made an impact on this team.

What does coaching think about this kid?

Larkin's work ethic and desire to improve his game was something that caught the attention of the coaches during recruiting and has continued at Michigan. He's extremely coachable and strives for improvement on a daily basis. Larkin has been everything the coaches expected and more.

Last but not least, in your opinion, what role would you foresee Dylan taking at the NHL level? Top-liner? Bottom-liner?
Larkin definitely has the skill set to be a really good second line center in the NHL. Besides his scoring ability Larkin excels in all three zones, defensively, on the penalty killing and the forecheck. Whenever Larkin is on the ice, he's going to make an impact.

To add to that, Joe was nice enough to provide his own summary of Dylan, after watching him so far this season:

Larkin fits the mold for the elusive high skill power forward, who was a scorer early in his career and added weight to his frame later without losing his skating ability. That has given him a unique combination of size and skill to lead the play in transition and get to the net with more than just a power move when he gets there. Larkin is a wizard with the puck in tight spaces and has the patience to feel the play develop and react rather than forcing it. Everything Larkin does, he does well. Off the ice Larkin sets the example for the rest of the team. He's always in the gym and skates at every voluntary workout. In his own words "My work ethic on and off the ice set me apart"

Larkin's line has accounted for 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) so far this season.. Which is the most of any of Michigan's line combinations. There is no doubt in my mind that Dylan has been the driving force in those efforts.

So what do you think, Detroit fans? Are you excited for this kid or what?