Between being a homegrown kid from Michigan and playing his college hockey at the University of Michigan, the expectations and hopes have been high for Dylan Larkin ever since being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2014 Draft.
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Throughout his time with the Red Wings, Larkin has shown growth in numerous areas of his game and earned himself an eight-year extension in March that will likely see him spend his entire career in a Red Wings jersey. The $69.6 million that general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman gave Larkin could end up looking like a steal for the team with the way he is leading the team to start this season.
Larkin is Leading By Example
In his first few seasons in the NHL after making his debut in Oct. 2015 with the Red Wings, there were numerous times that Larkin was unable to keep his emotions in check and showed a level of immaturity which is expected to some degree for a young player. But being surrounded by players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Niklas Kronwall throughout the first three seasons of his career, Larkin took leadership mentorship from these players and it has shown over the past few seasons in big ways, and has been on display big time to start this season.
His leadership is not just shown by keeping his emotions in check and playing a smart game (for the most part) but with his overall play as well. He has led the way this season for the Red Wings, playing more of a two-way game than seen before and showing off his speed with and without the puck, which has led to him being the team leader in shots (25 through five games) to this point and has also been one of the Red Wings’ top penalty kill options as well as helping lead the team’s top powerplay unit.
Larkin put up career-highs last season in goals (32), assists (47), and points (79) and could be on pace to top those numbers this season if he is able to keep up his play. As the longest-tenured Red Wing on the roster and with a group of younger players around the team, having a captain like Larkin leading the way is something that they can look to and strive to emulate as well. His play has also benefited his fellow teammates, including key offseason acquisition Alex DeBrincat as well as the powerplay unit.
What This Means For Red Wings Going Forward
With Larkin playing at the level he has through five games this season, putting up nine points and leading the way as a captain with his play, the hope is that it will continue for the rest of the season and that he can yet again set career-highs in production. With the salary cap also likely going up in the near future league-wide, his extension could end up becoming a steal for the organization. The team has a few decisions to make on other players’ futures at the end of the season, and between the mix of the increased salary cap and the help from Larkin in a round-about way with his “team friendly” deal, the organization will be able to comfortably sign players such as Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond to long-term deals if they so choose to.
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Overall, the progression from a young player out of college to being the team leader for an Original Six organization seems to have come full circle for Larkin and he is proving that he is worthy of the long-term deal that he signed this offseason and will continue to be a vital piece for the Red Wings organization for years to come.