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Larkin, Pulkkinen top team's top 5

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT -- The Red Wings' success during the past two decades has given them the luxury of allowing their prospects to develop in the American Hockey League.

For the most part, that remains true going into this season.

The only exception is their top prospect, center Dylan Larkin, who has played six games in the AHL (all in the Calder Cup Western Conference finals last season) after spending one season in college but showed he may be ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Detroit is deep in versatile forwards and mobile defensemen, but a little light in goal and in forwards with size.

Here is a look at the Red Wings' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

Larkin

1. Dylan Larkin, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 15), 2014 NHL draft

Last season: Michigan, Big Ten: 35 GP, 15-32-47; Grand Rapids, AHL (playoffs): 6 GP, 3-2-5

The Red Wings had the same develop-slowly plan for Larkin, 19, after they drafted him last summer. But he has forced a change.

Larkin (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) was Michigan's second-leading scorer and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2014-15. He excelled for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, leading the U.S. team with five goals and seven points in five games and impressing with his all-around game. Larkin also played for the U.S. team at the IIHF World Championship; he had one assist in 10 games.

After proving he could compete against professionals, Larkin signed with Detroit and made his pro debut with Grand Rapids in the AHL Western Conference finals. He played well, scoring two goals to help the Griffins win a game when they faced elimination.

The plan was for Larkin to return to Grand Rapids, at least for the start of this season. But with the uncertainty of Pavel Datsyuk's availability because of surgery in late June to repair a ruptured tendon in his right ankle, Larkin could make the NHL roster out of training camp.

Larkin, one of the NHL's top prospects, is an outstanding skater who has speed and good on-ice vision, and is willing to put in the work to improve.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

Pulkkinen

2. Teemu Pulkkinen, RW

How acquired: 4th round (No. 111), 2010 NHL draft

Last season: Red Wings: 31 GP, 5-3-8; Grand Rapids, AHL: 46 GP, 34-27-61

Pulkkinen's biggest asset is his shot; his right-handed release has been compared to Brett Hull. The 23-year-old led the AHL in goals last season.

But Pulkkinen (5-foot-11, 183 pounds) needs to get off his shot quicker in the NHL. He will get more opportunities to do that immediately because he can no longer be sent to the minor leagues without having to clear waivers.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

Ouellet

3. Xavier Ouellet, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 48), 2011 NHL draft

Last season: Red Wings: 21 GP, 2-1-3; Grand Rapids, AHL: 47 GP, 1-15-16

Ouellet, who turned 22 in late July and is 6-foot, 200 pounds, played well for the Red Wings last season. But there doesn't seem to be room on the roster for Ouellet after the Red Wings signed free agent defenseman Mike Green.

Ouellet is skilled offensively and solid in his own zone, and has the knack of making the right play to get out of tough situations.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

Marchenko

4. Alexey Marchenko, D

How acquired: 7th round (No. 205), 2011 NHL draft

Last season: Red Wings: 13 GP, 1-1-2; Grand Rapids, AHL: 51 GP, 3-17-20

Marchenko (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) was effective with the Red Wings last season, averaging 15 minutes per game. The 23-year-old is strong defensively and a good skater who has solid offensive instincts.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

Mantha

5. Anthony Mantha, RW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 20), 2013 NHL draft

Last season: Grand Rapids, AHL: 62 GP, 15-18-33

Mantha's first professional season was marred by a broken leg sustained in September during a prospects tournament game. The injury prevented the 21-year-old from beginning the season with Grand Rapids until November and added to the usual struggles of a first-year pro.

Mantha (6-foot-5, 214 pounds) scored 57 goals in his final junior season with Val-d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

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