Last summer, the Detroit Red Wings selected Dylan Larkin with the 15th overall selection in the 2014 draft, their highest draft pick since 1991.
On the surface, it seemed like nothing more than a hometown pick. Larkin is from Waterford, Michigan, which is just under an hour northwest of Detroit. However, after his first season at the University of Michigan and his success at the World Junior Championships in December, it’s easy to see this kid has some skill.
In five games at the World Junior Championships, where he faced the best junior players from around the globe, he had seven points (five goals, two assists) and helped Team USA place second in Group A behind eventual gold-medal winner Canada.
In 35 games with the Wolverines, Larkin had 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) and led his team to a berth in the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan fell short of a berth in the NCAA tournament, losing to Minnesota in the title game, but Larkin’s skill was on full display while playing in Ann Arbor.
He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and has a big decision to make soon: Does he stay at Michigan and continue to develop his game and get an education, or does he turn pro and most likely earn a spot with the Grand Rapids Griffins to start the 2015-16 season?
Larkin’s Skill Set
At 6-foot, 192 pounds, Larkin doesn’t have the ideal size of a great NHLer, but he makes up for his lack of size with great vision and skating.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland had a lot of good things to say about Larkin during the World Junior Championships. He told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan:
“Plays hard both ways. He can transport the puck up the ice, he makes little plays. He competes hard. He’s a good prospect, a good player. Our scouts liked him a lot when we picked him. Certainly the way he’s played at Michigan and now the way he’s played at World Junior, we’re very happy with where he’s at with his development.”
Great two-way forwards are not easy to come by in the NHL. Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron are two of the best there is at not only scoring goals and setting up teammates, but being sound defensively. In fact, Larkin admitted to watching Toews and trying to emulate his game.
One and Done for Larkin?
Dylan Larkin leads all B1G freshmen w/47 points (15G, 32A). That’s most pts by U-M frosh since Brendan Morrison’s 48 (20 G, 28A) in 1993-94.
— George Sipple (@GeorgeSipple) March 21, 2015
Larkin experienced a lot of success at the college level, but there is a big jump from playing in college against 18- to 22-year-olds and playing in the AHL with a lot of guys who have NHL experience.
We’ve all seen how Anthony Mantha went from scoring more than two points per game in juniors to notching just 28 points in 54 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. It’s a hard transition to make, and Larkin will not be doing himself any favors should he decide to leave Michigan at this point.
He has proven he’s worthy of being a first-round pick, but he still has a lot of developing to do. He should stay at least another year, maybe two in college and come to Grand Rapids with those extra years under his belt.
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Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.