Top 25: Under 25: Dylan Larkin ends up exactly where you thought he would at 1

It didn’t have to be 25; Larkin is tops in Detroit at any age.

When we started this reader poll to determine the top 25 under 25 years-old in Detroit, we knew there would be a lot of methodologies that would lead to some wildly different orderings; some folks prized potential, leading to guys like Zadina and McIsaac rising up some voters’ boards. Others focused on which players were the best at this very moment, which favored guys like Martin Frk and Tyler Bertuzzi. Still others favored players by position, often defenders, which pushed guys like Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski into some pretty lofty places. Others still took a dartboard approach, because, hey, with a lot of these guys it’s anyone’s guess (especially with the goalies.)

But no matter which road you took to get to number one, we all ended up in the same place (except for you yahoos that put Zadina at the top): Dylan Larkin. This guy is the one holding the torch for the Red Wings’ nation.  He, more than anyone else, is the hope for better days ahead. Larkin gets compared to Jonathan Toews a lot, but with the way Larkin has been improving, the days of saying “Dylan Larkin plays like Dylan Larkin” don’t look too far off.


Position: Center
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 198 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: 7/30/96 (22 years old)
Birthplace: Waterford, MI
Drafted: 2014, 1st Round, 15th Overall

Narrative and Skills: rebound season: he is developing into a multi-dimensional playmaker.

We’ve all witnessed and read Larkin’s narrative a thousand times over, mostly because at this stage in his career, it feels good to read (especially with the Wings chances this season.) Dylan Larkin came into the league three seasons ago, and his blinding speed and goal scoring were easy to fall in love with. He’d scored more goals and points as a Red Wings rookie than any other in the past 20 years. It helped he got to ride shotgun with Zetterberg, as well.

(Fun fact: Larkin’s first goal was scored against now-teammate Jonathan Bernier.)

Then came year two with the feared sophomore slump as Larkin transitioned into a center. He facede more responsibility, and opposing teams gave him a lot more respect, meaning Larkin ended up with only 32 points. Often, Larkin looked stymied as opposing defenders did a better job playing looser with him and also forcing him to the outside, taking away his greatest advantage as a goal-scorer: his blinding speed.

Then came last year. Larkin changed, adapted, and proved his dynamism. With fast players, their development is always a little scary because their speed will fade once they hit their mid-to-late-twenties, but a player with vision has staying power. Larkin proved he has great on-ice vision, tallying a career-high 63 points, with 47 helpers. It was a huge sigh of relief in Hockey Town; the best hope we’ve got just showed what he was made of, and its stern stuff.

And don’t think this all hasn’t gone unnoticed by Detroit’s PR team. Oh no.

Not all is sunshine and roses, of course. Larkin allowed a dismal number of scoring chances against, an important internal statistic for the Red Wings Organization. A lot of advanced stats point to poor defensive play when Larkin is on the ice, which is something the Red Wings will have to address going forward. No doubt this is because Larkin has and will continue to receive more attention from other teams’ scouts than any other player (save, maybe, the goaltenders), but Larkin has shown he is capable of adapting to pressure.

And of course, the news of Zetterberg’s retirement changes, well, everything in Detroit. You can’t lose a player like Zetterberg and expect any less. Larkin is perhaps most impacted by Z’s retirement, at least from a deployment aspect, because it means that Larkin is now the center in Detroit. No more 1A and 1B option. He is Detroit’s best weapon, and is therefore under the most pressure from his opponents, the city where he lives, and the team he plays for. It’s not an enviable position.

Can he continue to adapt from here? That is the big question going forward. Larkin is now the uncontested top-line center in Detroit. He looks to be in line for donning the C in a few years. Larkin needs to go out and prove again that he’s got a higher gear, that he can continue to grow and adapt to the game. It’s Dylan’s team now, and there are more growing pains on the horizon as the Red Wings take their punches as a non-playoff team. Change seems to be what’s for dinner this season, and on of the most engaging and telling signs of the health of the Red Wings will be the way Larkin changes throughout 2018 and 2019.

Was there any doubt Larkin would be at 1?