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Up Next at JLA: Youth Invasion

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin celebrates his goal in Montreal earlier this season. The Red Wings' young star is currently tied for the league lead in rookie goals scoring. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT Dylan Larkin isn’t the only NHL player this season not old enough to legally enjoy an adult beverage.

The Red Wings’ 19-year-old rookie is among 27 players under the age of 21 spread over 19 different NHL rosters this season. Eight of those players will visit Joe Louis Arena in the next week as the Red Wings continue their season-long, six-game homestand against Edmonton, Florida, Buffalo and Arizona.

“I think guys are getting an opportunity and taking advantage of it,” Larkin said. “It’s pretty cool that so many (younger) guys have a pretty big role on all the teams that they play on, and it’s good for the league. It’s pretty cool to see them all doing so well.”

Several rookies who will garner consideration for the Calder Trophy will play at The Joe for the first time as NHL players in the next week, including Edmonton center Leon Draisaitl, Buffalo center Jack Eichel and Arizona forward Max Domi.

Each season, young talent is sprinkled among the league roster. But this year there seems to be a bigger invasion of young, talented impact players that are raising eyebrows.

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he’s noticed an increase in rookie scoring.

“It's certainly trended a little bit younger,” he said. “Part of that is probably because of the level of speed, it's such a fast league right now that if guys lose a step at all, it's hard unless you've got elite smarts or elite competitiveness or strength on the puck. So there's definitely something to be said for the fact that there's a lot of young guys having success.”

Unfortunately, the rookie on the top of everyone’s list to win the rookie of the year award – Edmonton center Connor McDavid – won’t make the trip with the Oilers on Friday. Last June’s No. 1 overall draft pick suffered a broken clavicle last month and is expected to be out of the lineup until January.

Larkin has played against many of the upcoming stars, including McDavid, either at the youth level or at international tournaments like the World Junior or World Championships.

“It is cool to play against him and I wish he were healthy and playing,” Larkin said of McDavid. “But for our team, I’m glad he’s not playing.

“Growing up I played against him and I think he was playing with the Toronto Stars since he was 12 or 14. He’s a special guy and I think it was cool playing against him in Edmonton.”

A 19-year-old who won’t receive votes for this year’s rookie award, is the reigning Calder winner, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad. The Windsor, Ontario, native will lead his Panthers in to JLA for a Sunday matinee.

“Played against him a little bit growing up. He’s a big guy, really good,” Larkin said. “When I was younger he started playing up a year old. He’s always been a special player. He’s always been big. Obviously, he won the Calder last year so he’s doing some things right.”

Larkin hasn’t been bad himself. The Wings’ rookie is tied with Domi for the league’ rookie lead on goals with eight. His three game-winning goals is also tied for the rookie lead with St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko

If Larkin were to finish this season as the Calder winner, he would become the sixth to do so in franchise history and just the third forward, joining centers Jim McFadden (1948) and Carl Voss (1933). Goalies Terry Sawchuk (1951), Glenn Hall (1956) and Roger Crozier (1965) also won the award.

Tickets to these games and all remaining home games at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.

EDMONTON OILERS

Leon Draisaitl
LEON DRAISAITL
Center  - EDM
Goals: 7 | Assists: 10 | Pts: 17
Shots: 22 | +/-: 10
PLAYER TO WATCH

C LEON DRAISAITL – Selected third overall in the 2014 NHL draft, the 20-year-old from Cologne, Germany, has seven points, including thee goals, in his last five games. He has also produced two multi-point games and has recorded points in eight of the past 11 contests for the Oilers this season. He ranks second on the team in points (17) and is tied for the team lead in power-play goals (2). In is draft prospect bio, Draisaitl listed the Red Wings and Pavel Datsyuk as his favorite NHL team and player. Draisaitl, who played in 37 games last season making him ineligible for consideration in 2015-16 Calder Trophy balloting, has not played against the Red Wings.

NUMEROLOGY

SEASON SERIES: 0-1-0.

2014-15 SEASON SERIES: 2-0-0.

ALL-TIME SERIES: 63-36-13-11.

EDMONTON’S 2015-16 RECORD: 7-13-1.

TOP SCORERS VS. RED WINGS: Jordan Eberle (2G, 1A), in 2 games, and Nail Yakupov (3A), in 3 games.

TOP SCORERS VS. EDMONTON: Justin Abdelkader (2G, 2A), Pavel Datsyuk (2G, 2A) and Henrik Zetterberg (4A), in 2 games.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

PLAYER TO WATCH

Aaron Ekblad
AARON EKBLAD
Defense  - FLA
Goals: 4 | Assists: 5 | Pts: 9
Shots: 59 | +/-: 1
D AARON EKBLAD – With two assists on Nov. 21 vs. New York Rangers, Ekblad produced his first multi-point game of the season. He has six points (3-3-6) in his last seven games and leads all Panthers defensemen in scoring with nine points. The Panthers holds a 4-0-0 record this season when Ekblad records a goal, and they are 6-1-1 when the 19-year old registers at least a point.
He leads the team with 59 shots on goal, which ranks No. 7 among NHL defensemen. Last season’s Calder winner as the league’s rookie of the year, Ekblad grew up in Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit River from Joe Louis Arena. He picked up a point in three of the four games he played against the Red Wings last season, including a game-winning goal on Dec. 2, 2014. Last season he reestablished several franchise rookie defenseman records, including goals (12), assists (27) and for points (39). He also became the youngest in team history – at 18 years, 267 days – to score his first goal, doing so in a 2-1 win at Philadelphia, on Nov. 1, 2014.

NUMEROLOGY

SEASON SERIES: 0-0-0.

2014-15 SEASON SERIES: 1-2-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: 17-5-5-5.

FLORIDA’S 2015-16 RECORD: 8-9-4.

TOP SCORERS VS. RED WINGS: Aleksander Barkov (1G, 3A), in 2 games, and Aaron Ekblad (1G, 3A), in 4 games.

TOP SCORER VS. FLORIDA: Riley Sheahan (1G, 3A), in 4 games.

BUFFALO SABRES

PLAYER TO WATCH

Jack Eichel
JACK EICHEL
Center  - BUF
Goals: 6 | Assists: 4 | Pts: 10
Shots: 71 | +/-: -7
C JACK EICHEL – Tied for third in team scoring, Eichel is certainly garnered plenty of attention for this year’s Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie performer. And that was before the season began. But now that Connor McDavid (broken clavicle) is out until sometime in January, Eichel seems to be the favorite for the honor. Should Eichel win the award, he would become the first Sabres center to do so since Gilbert Perreault in 1971. The No. 2 overall pick in last June’s draft, Eichel scored the Sabres’ first goal of the season on opening night. At 18 years, 346 days, the rookie became the youngest player in franchise history to register a goal in his debut passing Paul Cyr (Oct. 6, 1982) and Wayne Primeau (May 3, 1995). He’s now the second youngest player to score in a Sabres’ season opener. Eichel is ninth in league rookie scoring with six goals and 10 points in 21 games. His three power-play goals are tied for the rookie lead with Arizona’s Anthony Duclair. Last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner as the NCAA’s player of the year, Eichel led all Division 1 skaters with 71 points in 40 games at Boston University.

NUMEROLOGY

SEASON SERIES: 0-0-0.

2014-15 SEASON SERIES: 3-0-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: 57-52-13-2.

BUFFALO’S 2015-16 RECORD: 8-11-2.

TOP SCORER VS. RED WINGS: Tyler Ennis (2G, 2A), in 4 games.

TOP SCORERS VS. BUFFALO: Tomas Tatar (5G, 1A) and Henrik Zetterberg (4G, 2A), in 4 games.

ARIZONA COYOTES

PLAYER TO WATCH

Max Domi
MAX DOMI
Left Wing  - ARI
Goals: 8 | Assists: 8 | Pts: 16
Shots: 42 | +/-: 4
LW MAX DOMI – The 12th overall draft pick in 2013, the 5-foot-10 Domi has been a bright spot for the Coyotes. He is second among all rookies in points (16), and is tied with the Red Wings Dylan Larkin for first in goals (8) through 20 games. The son of former NHL enforcer Tie Domi, the 20-year-old Winnipeg native is also tied for second among league rookies in assists (8). He leads the team with five multi-point games, which have helped the Coyotes to a 4-1-0 record. Domi became the eighth player in franchise history to record a multi-point game in his NHL debut when he produced a goal and an assist in the Coyotes’ 4-1 season-opening win at Los Angeles. He was also the first Coyote to accomplish the feat and the first franchise player to do so since Shane Doan had two assists at Dallas on Oct. 7, 1995.

NUMEROLOGY

SEASON SERIES: 0-0-0.

2014-15 SEASON SERIES: 1-0-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: 66-43-22-4.

ARIZONA’S 2015-16 RECORD: 10-9-1.

TOP SCORER VS. RED WINGS: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (1G, 2A), in 2 games.

TOP SCORER VS. ARIZONA: Tomas Tatar (1G, 3A), in 2 games.

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