Detroit Red Wings: Why Dylan Larkin Will Find Success in the NHL

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Detroit Red Wings: Why Dylan Larkin Will Find Success in the NHL
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

As he sat in the midst of fellow unbearably nervous players and their families and friends in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, there was one team in the mind of Dylan Larkin: the Detroit Red Wings.

Born in Waterford, Michigan and a member of the US National Team Development Program Under-18 team, which is based in Ann Arbor, the 6-foot-1 centre is Michigan through-and-through.

Larkin told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press beforehand:

I’m not just saying this, but I really do want to get drafted by Detroit. I think it would be cool. Obviously, grew up watching them. I’d be really happy with that.

Sure enough, when general manager Ken Holland and company rose to the stage with their No. 15 selection, Larkin’s name was called out, and, to his delight, he was presented with that famous "winged-wheel" jersey.

Detroit desires players that really want to play for its organisation, just like Dylan Larkin. If being selected by the Red Wings, arguably the best at drafting and developing young players in the league (just look at how the kids got them to the playoffs in 2014), doesn’t fill a player with confidence in their own ability, what can?

Why have the Wings chosen Larkin then? He wants to model his game on his hero Steve Yzerman and Detroit believes he can get near to those heights.

Wings’ director of amateur scouting, Tyler Wright told Dana Wakiji of Fox Sports Detroit: “I knew right away. I watched the US program play a lot and I’ve never seen this kid play a bad game. He may not have been the best player every game but this guy drives the bus for that team and a very good team.”

Larkin possesses many of the attributes needed to become a top two-way centre in the NHL. He is a phenomenal skater, which of course helps to unlock defences and also combat the offence of the opposition.

According to Mike Morreale of NHL.com, his under-18 coach Danton Cole described him as “probably one of the best skaters we’ve had come through the program in a long time." Cole adds though that Larkin is “diligent…interested in his defensive zone."

As well as being in control of his own end, the 17-year-old can hit the net too; he racked up 31 goals in 60 games for the US Development team.

More importantly, Larkin has the character to succeed. He’s a player who wills teammates to play at his intensity, and he’s a leader, serving as assistant captain for the United States at the 2014 World Championships, where they took home the gold medal. He’s willing to battle in the dirty areas and take the body for his team.

Also, those that know him speak of his first-rate work ethic and his desire to continue improving. Fellow US under-18 player and potential No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Jack Eichel, told Morreale about Larkin: “He's an unbelievable player and person. It was great spending two years with him. He's an unbelievable skater and he goes so hard in practice."

Larkin’s immense improvement can just be seen by comparing his offensive production in the last two seasons: For the Under-17 US Development side, he registered 27 points in 55 games, which increased to 56 points in 60 games for the Under-18 outfit.

The Waterford native has committed to playing for the University of Michigan for the 2014-15 campaign, and with Detroit’s favoured bedding-in period for draft picks with their AHL side, Grand Rapids Griffins, it may be a few years before Larkin finds his own number penned onto Mike Babcock’s whiteboard in the locker room at the Joe Louis Arena.

Then again, if the Atlantic Division team have the same number of injuries as last season, he might be pushed through the ranks a lot quicker, like Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist have been (and to great success).

Larkin has the potential to be the driving force, the heart-and-soul, of the Red Wings down the middle in the future. He possesses skill, speed, power, sense, awareness and, most of all, a passion to win and get better each day.

He told Bill Roose of the official Detroit Red Wings site what he aims to accomplish this year: “I’m looking to improve on my strength. To play at the next level, even in college, you got to be strong. It’s important to get in the gym and spend time on my body and nutrition.”

Being based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the winter, would surely have led to Dylan Larkin overhearing much conversation about the Winter Classic taking place there between the Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Larkin would have been dreaming that one day he’d be participating in one of those outdoor hockey spectacles, representing an NHL power like Mike Babcock’s side in his home state.

Thanks to his selection at No. 15 by the Detroit Red Wings, that dream might be one rung closer to becoming a reality.

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