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Larkin excited about Wings' draft, return of Green and Vanek

Young center met and skated with Zadina in Detroit last week

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

WATERFORD, MICH. - The present and near future of the Detroit Red Wings were together at Little Caesars Arena recently.

Center Dylan Larkin, who is entering his fourth season with the Wings this fall, met Filip Zadina, the Wings' first-round pick, sixth overall, in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

"Got the chance to skate with Filip Zadina last week when he was in town and a couple of the other young guys," Larkin said Thursday during the Larkin Hockey School at Lakeland Ice Arena in Waterford. "Looked really skilled and he's a great kid and seems really excited to be here. We talked a little bit and I told him there's a couple teams that went over him that he's happy that he's here with us and I'm happy he's here with us."

It has only been four years since Larkin was the Wings' first-round pick, 15th overall, in the 2014 draft.

Larkin was asked if he offered Zadina any advice.

"I just said, 'Hey, man, there's opportunity, we need a player like you and hopefully I get to play with you and work as hard as possible when you go home. Enjoy summer but when you come to camp, there's a spot there and take everything as seriously as you can,'" Larkin said.

Although he's been busy with his own offseason training, Larkin did pay attention to the Wings' draft last month.

"I'm really excited. It's awesome," Larkin said. "It's a pretty special draft class, I think, with Filip and Joe Veleno. I think both those guys are going to be impact players. We don't know when, you never know when but at some point I think they will. It's pretty special. We got a good core of young guys and it's something to push Mo (Anthony Mantha) and Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou), Tyler (Bertuzzi), myself as they come up."

At the draft in Dallas, Tyler Wright, the Wings' director of amateur scouting, compared Veleno's skating to Larkin's.

"I don't want to do a lot of comparisons but he skates a lot like Dylan Larkin, he plays the game kind of like Dylan Larkin," Wright said. "We were worried a little bit about Larkin's creativity in his draft year when you really try to pick these guys apart. Obviously, Dylan has answered a lot of those questions for us. I don't want to compare him to Larkin, but he fits the mold of what we're trying to accomplish. We want to be fast, we want to be competitive and we want to produce more offense. We're really happy. If you'd have told me we were walking out with Veleno at 30 I would have been shocked."

Larkin has not met Veleno and has not seen him play but is looking forward to doing so soon.

"People who are usually making those comparisons are people who watch a lot of hockey, who know hockey and to be a good skater, it's got to be, it's something that's clear to the eye and anyone can see," Larkin said. "That's exciting. He seems like a playmaking centerman."

With the strong possibility that Michael Rasmussen, Zadina and a defenseman like Filip Hronek or Dennis Cholowski will make the Wings this fall, there could be as many as three players younger than Larkin.

"That's crazy to me, too, I won't be the youngest," Larkin said. "I liked being the youngest, it was kind of fun.

"They're pushing from the bottom and it's just going to light a fire in us to become better, to become leaders. Soon we'll be the old guys, I guess."

But hold on a minute there.

The Wings also brought back some veteran players on July 1, extending the contract of defenseman Mike Green, 32, for two years and signing former Wing Thomas Vanek, 34, for one year. Meanwhile, Larkin doesn't turn 22 until July 30.

"That's awesome," Larkin said. "Those two guys, Vanny and Greener, two of my favorite guys that I've gotten the chance to play with. Vanek and Greener, both of them are so loved in our locker room and add such experience and offense. Vanny adds a ton of scoring. You look to see what he did for (Alexander) Wennberg when he went to Columbus. It's something that I would love to play with him as well. He's a puck possession guy, someone who values the puck and making plays. That's someone you want to play with."

Wennberg had 11 of his 27 regular season points in the time that Vanek was with the Blue Jackets after being traded from Vancouver. Vanek had seven goals and eight assists in 19 games with Columbus.

Larkin, whose summer has also included winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the IIHF men's world championship in Denmark, is still looking for ways to improve before training camp.

"Working on goal scoring, getting stronger," Larkin said. "I think my biggest thing is conditioning. I always try and run a lot and make sure I'm in great shape coming into camp. But I've been working with (former University of Michigan player) Brandon Naurato with a couple other pro guys about goal scoring and on my one-timer as well."

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