Red Wings' Larkin sets fastest skater record

Saturday, 01.30.2016 / 10:42 PM
Shawn Roarke  - Director, Editorial

NASHVILLE -- Detroit Red Wings rookie forward Dylan Larkin is the fastest skater in the history of the NHL All-Star Skills competition.

Larkin, 19, took advantage of the opportunity he earned to best the record held by Mike Gartner, finishing his lap in 13.172 seconds during the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition that opened the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday.

"I really went into the last lap and said I was going to give it all I had, why not just go for it," Larkin said

Gartner's record of 13.386 seconds, set at the 1996 NHL All-Star Game, had stood for two decades.

Larkin was not yet born when Gartner, 36, set the record. Gartner, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, set the mark on Feb. 4, 1996; Larkin was born on July 30 of that year.

"That's way more impressive than doing it at 20," he said with a smile after being informed of Gartner's age when he set the record.

It was almost not meant to be. Going into the third turn, Larkin's skate slid slightly and it looked like he might fall.

"I dug in pretty hard there," he said. "It could have been pretty bad, probably would have been my last All-Star Game if I kept [falling], but luckily I got my footing."

Larkin said he did not even think about the stumble as he regained his footing and pushed as hard as possible toward the finish line.

"I didn't even know I won until I heard the crowd go crazy," Larkin said. "I couldn't see the scoreboard or anything like that."

Larkin won the eight-man preliminary competition and the right to go for Gartner's mark with a first-round time of 12.894 seconds on a shortened course. That time bested Roman Josi (13.527) of the Nashville Predators in the first heat of the competition.

"When I saw I was going against him, I wasn't expecting to win because I know how fast he is from playing against him," said Josi, who ended up with the second-fastest time of the preliminary round. "It's pretty impressive that he broke such an old record. He was flying out there."

Larkin was surprised at exactly how fast he went, but was not surprised that he was among the favorites even though he was considerably younger than the other competitors.

"I've always been a good skater, but as I have started working out and gaining strength, I think my speed has taken off," he said. "I've always had a really good first three or four steps."

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad won the second heat with a time of 13.634, beating favored Matt Duchene (14.026) of the Colorado Avalanche.

In the third heat, Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall defeated Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who lost control coming out of the first turn and finished the race by skating backward after Hall pulled away. Hall had a time of 13.654.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang won a close heat against Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets, posting a time of 14.081.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin won the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition last season in Columbus. Drouin is presently suspended by the Lightning for not reporting to a game for the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

Rookies have won the Fastest Skater competition four consecutive times. Carl Hagelin won in 2012 and Michael Grabner won in 2011. Larkin is the only rookie in the 2016 All-Star Game and is the youngest of the 44 players.

Larkin earned three points for the Eastern Conference by winning his heat, posting the fastest preliminary time and breaking Gartner's record to help give the East a 5-1 team lead after one event on the way to a 29-12 win in the competition.

"I think it is a fun thing, a celebration of how my year is going," he said of the record-setting performance. "I was able to just kick back, relax, meet the guys and have as much fun as I can. It's a no-pressure, fun weekend."

EAST

Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings / 12.894

Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets / 13.634

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators / 14.630

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins / 14.081

WEST

Roman Josi, Nashville Predators / 13.527

Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche / 14.026

Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers / 13.654

Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets / 14.203

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