Thomas Larkin has seen the world.
The 23-year-old was born in London, England, but grew up in Cocquio-Trevisago, Italy. He speaks English, Italian, French, and Spanish, and his selection in the 2009 NHL Draft made him the first-ever Italian-trained player to be drafted into the league.
Nearly six years have passed since his name was called at the draft, and part of each summer has been spent in Columbus at development camp. Larkin has gone from a lanky teenager looking to gain some useful knowledge to a full grown, 6-foot-5 young professional eager for his first chance at the NHL level.
Larkin has seen a lot in six years with the Blue Jackets, including changes at the management side of the team, and the organization's development camps have also changed significantly. The focus has shifted from on-ice work to a well-rounded, educational approach that teaches prospects lessons that reach beyond hockey and will help enrich their lives.
“In my first year, we were on the ice four or five times a week and barely did anything in the afternoons, we were kind of to ourselves,” Larkin told BlueJackets.com. “We were pretty busy this week, it’s been pretty grueling. We’ve done a bunch of seminars and classes, but it’s all been really good stuff; a really good crash-course on what being a pro is all about.”
With all the young prospects involved in this year’s camp, facing the life of a pro and trying to fit in with the group isn’t always easy. Larkin, along with the other veteran prospects, tried to help the younger guys feel a little more confortable and at ease this past week.
Larkin, along with others, attempted to help lead the group to becoming one unit, but he thought that even with the intense nature of this camp, the prospects had a great time collectively as a group.
“It’s definitely a lot younger camp this year,” Larkin said. “I’m obviously the oldest guy here, so I try to set an example to the younger guys. I remember in my first couple camps I was kind of intimidated, so I’m just trying to be open with everybody. You don’t want to be nervous your first week, so that’s kind of the approach I took this year.
“I think we’ve had a really good time this week with everyone, not just myself, but all the other older guys have kind of been very welcoming. I think we’ve had a lot of fun all together; with all the activities we’ve done together we really meshed as a group in a short week.”
The enjoyment of the week was centered around the inaugural 3-on-3 tournament that took place Thursday, where Larkin said they were told to have fun and be creative, because all of their hard work was rewarded with the competition.
“The whole week is pretty grueling — we do a lot of testing — a lot of stuff that might not be so fun,” he said. “They told us before to strictly have fun out there, try things if you have to. It’s always fun to screw around, it’s great to have a great crowd in front of us to try to amaze.”
The point of the 3-on-3 tournament was to open up the players and give them a chance to shine as well. Larkin said there is a lot of skill between the prospects and it showed during the tournament.
His assessment of recent first-round pick Sonny Milano? "He has some pretty decent mitts, I have to say.”
From here on out this summer, it's back to the rigorous training and preparations for Blue Jackets training camp in September - the next chance for Larkin to take a big step toward the NHL. He'll remain in Columbus for the foreseeable future and work with some of the other players and prospects in town, who all share a similar goal.
“I’m sticking around Columbus,” Larkin said. “I'm trying to get stronger, faster, and training for this upcoming season and trying to push for this team.”