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Larkin sees opportunity to make Red Wings as teen

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Detroit Red Wings are known for taking their time and developing their prospects in the minors.

But that didn't discourage center Dylan Larkin, 19, from leaving the University of Michigan after one season to sign with the Red Wings on May 21.

Rather, Larkin looked at the Red Wings roster and thought, with a coaching change from Mike Babcock to Jeff Blashill, there might be a chance he could crack the roster as a teenager.

"That is one of the reasons I decided to sign and leave college," Larkin said. "There is a new coach and there seems to be some older players who might be on their way out. I think it is a great opportunity for me to learn from them. Growing up in Detroit you hear so much about those guys. I have watched Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk my whole life, so to be in the same room as them would be an incredible experience."

With many of the core players on the Red Wings inching toward the end of their careers, the organization is hoping some skilled young blood can come in and make an impact. Datsyuk is 37 years old while Johan Franzen and newcomer Brad Richards are 35, and Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are 34.

Larkin, who grew up in Waterford, Michigan, was a big fan of the Red Wings as a kid.

"As long as I can remember, Zetterberg and Datsyuk have been on the team," he said, "so it has been pretty cool to be at Joe Louis Arena and Zetterberg has been out there a few times [at workouts]. It has been awesome skating with my hockey idol."

Larkin said he didn't play on a line with the Red Wings captain during workouts, but Zetterberg did strip him of the puck once and scored a goal on the play.

Selected with the 15th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Larkin, 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, was second in Wolverines scoring as a freshman with 15 goals and 47 points in 35 games. He signed with the Red Wings following the Big-10 season and had three goals and five points in six American Hockey League playoff games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Now he has his sights set on making the Red Wings.

"I'm pretty nervous," Larkin said. "I was told to come and compete and perform. It's hard to have a mindset when you don't know what to expect in terms of the workload there and the schedule. You just try to prepare by training properly and getting your sleep."

Sleep, said Larkin, plays a huge role in his game.

"I have been able to sleep anywhere, anytime since I was born," Larkin said with a laugh. "I'm pretty lucky that way. If I don't sleep 10 hours the night before a game it's hard to play. I don't feel as sharp."

Larkin and Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler share an agent, Kurt Overhardt, and Larkin said Kesler has been both a source of inspiration and a role model for him.

"I haven't talked to him much, but I have skated with him the past few years and just to watch him and learn from him has been a help," Larkin said. "This summer I have been training with (Red Wings forward) Luke Glendening, so he has been able to answer a lot of the questions that I had."

Among the little tidbits of information Glendening passed along was the fact the Red Wings are a very competitive team that wants to win now. Larkin believes he can help in that respect.

"It is what I have been waiting for and I'm ready for it," Larkin said. "Hopefully it is everything I always thought it would be. It's going to be a fun year."

Larkin, who led the United States in scoring at the 2015 World Junior Championship with five goals and seven points in five games, believes he has the potential to be a consistent scorer in the NHL.

"I think I'll be a dominant player all over the ice," Larkin said. "I'll be a player than can play against the other team's top line and can still produce offense. It might take a while, but it does for everyone to become a dominant player."

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