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Larkin wants to be with Wings

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin has already had quite an adventurous 2015, playing for teams in four different competitive levels. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- There are a lot of people who are expecting Dylan Larkin to make the Red Wings this season.

Of course Larkin would love that but he isn't counting on it.

"Wherever I play, I think I'm going to have fun and contribute to the team and be on a winning team," Larkin said after Wednesday's informal skate at Joe Louis Arena. "I'm not really worried about it. I get to play hockey and have fun every day. You don't have the distractions of schoolwork or anything like that. Expectations are have fun, score goals and win."

Larkin, who just turned 19 at the end of July, has had success at every level.

Larkin played for the U.S. National Team Development Program team, for Team USA at the 2015 IIHF World Championships in the Czech Republic and for the University of Michigan.

At Michigan, Larkin had 15 goals and 32 assists in 35 games, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

Larkin decided to turn professional and joined the Grand Rapids Griffins for the end of their playoff run last season, scoring three goals and two assists in six games.

"That was huge," Larkin said. "Spending time there and learning how to be a pro and what to expect coming into camp. I know all those guys going into camp and they'll be familiar faces. To play for Blash was huge. It was a great experience."

Contrary to some stories out there, Larkin said the departure of coach Mike Babcock wasn't the main reason he went pro.

"I've been reading the past few days, they said I signed just because Babcock left is kind of twisting my words," Larkin said. "It was a pretty subtle question but they asked if that was one of the factors and I said yes, with Blash (Jeff Blashill) coming here, I feel like it's a new opportunity. It's not everything. I think with my abilities and the player I want to be, I think I can help the Detroit Red Wings."

Although the Wings have traditionally elected to keep their young players in the minors for seasoning, there's a chance Larkin could be an exception to that.

"To be on the Detroit Red Wings, I want that really bad so there's expectations," Larkin said. "But I put expectations on myself too. I'd say that's more pressure, from myself.

"I feel like a summer of hard work and being in the gym has given me confidence so I'm ready to go and try and have an impact on the team."

Larkin said he gained 10 pounds of muscle working out with teammate Luke Glendening at Barwis Methods in Plymouth over the summer.

"They have a pro group there and just to be in the gym with those guys every day and we all pushed each other and it was a pretty competitive group," Larkin said. "I put some weight on and I feel different on the ice. It was a big summer for me."

Although he's still very young, Larkin said this summer he went to his hometown rink, Lakeland Ice Arena in Waterford Township, and skated with younger kids.

"It's pretty cool," Larkin said. "I just tell those kids they could be me, I was just like them. I hope to make the Red Wings but I'm kind of patient because I feel like someday I'll be in this locker room and maybe a bigger part of the community."

NOTEBOOK: It's been somewhat of an uneven journey for Thomas McCollum.

McCollum, 25, was the Wings' first-round pick (30th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

After some rough times with the Griffins in the AHL, McCollum has rediscovered his game, going 24-12-5 with a 2.30 goals-against average in 2013-14 and 19-11-6 with a 2.40 goals-against average last season.

"Honestly, it’s a lot easier now," McCollum said. "Obviously I’m seven years older than when I first started all this. All that experience kind of makes things easier. You see a lot; you learn how to handle things. I think personally for me I’ve kind of calmed down a lot. Things don’t really bother me anymore. I sort of seen it before and know how to handle things. It helps you stay more relaxed."

McCollum got his first NHL win last season against the Buffalo Sabres, his hometown team.

"That was really exciting," McCollum said. "Actually, I think it was really good for myself. It kind of freshened up that memory of what it’s actually like to play a game in this league. It really makes you hungry for more and kind of inspires you to keep working hard and drive forward just to try and make a spot on the team."

With Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek battling for the starting goalie spot, McCollum will be in line to come up in case either gets hurt during the season.

"I've been fortunate that the team’s been patient with me to kind of give me the opportunity to be in that role," McCollum said. "I’m just looking forward to getting a chance if I’m needed."

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