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Larkin makes final case for Wings' roster

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin played in his final preseason game with the Red Wings on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dana Wakiji/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – For the last two weeks, Dylan Larkin has done everything in his power to make his case for why he should be on the Red Wings’ opening-night roster next Friday.

But he understands that where he plays next – whether it’s with the Red Wings or in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins – the final decision will be made by the organization’s front-office and coaching staffs.

“I just tried to do everything they asked me to do, and played my hardest,” Larkin said. “I think I did that pretty well.”

Appearing in his final game of the preseason, Larkin played much of Friday’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on a wing with center Brad Richards and forward Tomas Tatar.

The 19-year-old Larkin played all of his amateur and collegiate career as a centerman.

“They threw me in different roles to see how I responded and tonight was probably the toughest one playing on the wing,” he said. “I never played on the wing, but you know it’s something with a forward group like this you’re gonna have to do. So, all in all, a good preseason, a lot of fun.”

The Wings will play their final exhibition game at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Saturday. But Larkin will not make the trip. He finishes the preseason with three goals, four points and a plus-3 rating in five exhibitions.

“He’s a competitive person who wants to do great every single time he’s on the ice,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He wants to win hockey games. He’s got a really, really good skill set.”

But is the former University of Michigan standout, who grew up in metro Detroit, ready for the NHL right now?

“I don’t know how to answer that,” Blashill said. “That depends on lots of things. That depends on opportunity and that’s a decision we’ll make here in a few days. … He’s certainly knocking on the door with a bunch of guys.”

Blashill used the preseason to evaluate Larkin’s abilities from virtually every angle, playing him with top-line forwards against some of the league’s elite centers, like Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.

Larkin said he feels good with how he did in his challenges against the Bruins, Penguins and Leafs.

“You have your own opinion and I have my own opinion,” he said. “I think I did a pretty good job. I understand that it’s a process and there’s different factors, but everyone in here would be lying if they said that wanted to spend sometime down or they didn’t want to be here. I want to be here.”

Based on Jimmy Howard’s assessment, it shouldn’t be long before Larkin figures in the Wings’ NHL plans.

“He's going to be a special player,” Howard said. “His speed, it's lightning fast. He sees the ice, even with the amount of speed that he generates out there. He's got great hockey sense, he's got a great set of hands. It's going to be fun here to watch him develop.”

Though he didn’t factor in the scoring Friday, Larkin enjoyed the game from a personal standpoint, playing against Leafs center Zach Hyman. The two were linemates last season at Michigan.

“I thought he had a really good game tonight,” Larkin said. “He’s so fast and physical and strong. He did a good job working. He’s a hard-working guy so it was good for him. It was good seeing him.”

Now, comes the hard part for Larkin … waiting.

“I think it’s awesome being here, but it would be a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something that I want. It’s something that I’ve worked for for my whole life. So it would be really special.”

The Wings have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to finalize their 23-man roster and submit it to the league office.

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