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Larkin continues to create buzz

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin, 19, is the second youngest Red Wings' rookie (Steve Yzerman was 18) ever selected to play in an NHL All-Star Game. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

SAN JOSE, Calif. – At 19 years old, Dylan Larkin has done things most teenagers only dream about.

On Wednesday, the Red Wings’ rookie learned that he’ll add another adventure to his growing list of accomplishments when he plays in the NHL All-Star Game later this month in Nashville.

Larkin was named to the Atlantic Division’s 11-man roster, becoming the third rookie in franchise history – and the second youngest – selected to represent the Wings at the midseason exhibition.

This year’s game, featuring the new 3-on-3 divisional format, will be played at Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 31.

Since making the Wings’ lineup out of training camp, Larkin has created plenty of buzz around the league. His ascension on to the Detroit sports scene arouses memories of rising young stars like Steve Yzerman, Barry Sanders, Isiah Thomas and Justin Verlander during their sensational rookie campaigns.

Yzerman, Sanders and Thomas manufactured blue-collar careers, earning them seats in their respective hall of fames.

Surely, it’s too soon to proclaim Larkin a hall-of-fame candidate. However, with the kind of season start he’s had, it’s quite possible he’ll become the first Wings’ player to win the league’s rookie of the year award since goalie Roger Crozier did so 50 years ago.

Speedy quick with an exceptional finishing touch around the goal crease, Larkin has captivated Detroit sports fans with highlight-reel goals, like the wrap-around in Ottawa, the snipe against Nashville and the game winner Monday in New Jersey. His breakaway goal against the Devils’ Cory Schneider was No. 2 on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day.

Larkin has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, from playing top-line minutes with captain Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader to centering the second line with forwards Tomas Tatar and Teemu Pulkkinen. He has played on the power play and was even used as a net-front presence.

Recently, Larkin, who has points in three straight games, was moved to Riley Sheahan’s third line, playing opposite of veteran Brad Richards.

Larkin is second in team scoring with 14 goals and 27 points, just two points behind Zetterberg. His four game-winning goals lead all league rookies, while his goal total and 107 shots on goal rank second among all league freshmen. His plus-22 rating is tied for the overall league lead.

With every point Larkin climbs another rung up the franchise’s all-time rookie scoring list. His current goal total ranks No. 18, but only Jiri Hudler (15) and Zetterberg (22) produced more rookie goals this century.

Larkin grew up in Waterford, located in northern Oakland County. He played his youth hockey minutes from home at Lakeland Arena and moved on to the U.S. National Development Team Program in Ann Arbor before committing to legendary coach Red Berenson at the University of Michigan. From there, Larkin was drafted by his hometown Red Wings, No. 15 overall, in the 2014 NHL draft.

Since the draft, Larkin was named Big Ten freshman of the year, and played superbly for the U.S. in last year’s World Junior Championship in Canada and the World Championship in Europe.

In November, he became the first Wings’ teenager to score goals in four consecutive games since 1984-85 when Yzerman had a pair of four-game streaks. For his efforts, Larkin was named the NHL rookie of the month for November.

Since 1969, when the league changed the format of the midseason exhibition, selecting players to participate, only two other Wings rookies have played in an All-Star Game – Reed Larson in 1978 and Yzerman in 1984.

Now there are three as Larkin will be the Wings’ lone representative at this year’s game.

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