TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Last fall the expectations were heaped upon Anthony Mantha to make the Red Wings’ roster in his first pro season.
That didn’t work out so well when Mantha suffered a fractured tibia during the prospects tournament during the week prior to Wings training camp.
Twelve months later the spotlight turns toward another star on the rise, Dylan Larkin, the Michigan kid, who cast a bright light on four different stages last year and is considered to be an heir apparent to top scoring veterans Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
It’s high praise for a young man who is just one year removed from high school. But if anyone is talented enough – and poised to handle the attention – it’s Larkin.
“It’s pretty cool but I’m still young,” said Larkin, who is celebrating his 19th birthday today. “I still have a lot of work to do and still have a lot of hockey to play so I’m just trying to focus on getting better for the training camp.”
Last season, Larkin had tremendous success at the University of Michigan, where he produced 15 goals and 47 points in 35 games with the Wolverines. A stellar performance in the World Junior Championship during the Christmas holiday only helped solidify the Red Wings confidence in young winger who could be closer to the NHL stage than originally thought.
Larkin followed up his freshman season in Ann Arbor by playing against bigger, faster pro players in both the World Championships and in the third round of the American Hockey League playoffs with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
It was after his World Championship experience that Larkin made the decision to turn pro.
“It was a major step up from college to the World Championship with the skill and speed and then coming back to the AHL was another step, jumping into the playoffs,” Larkin said. “It was a physical series and it was on a smaller rink and things happened a lot more fast. It was a long year but it was a good year.”
The Wings will take no fewer than 15 NHL-experienced forwards to camp in a few months. Many believe Larkin is ready for the challenge of making the jump to the NHL. But he’ll have to take someone’s spot, which won’t be easy.
“I want to make the jump (to the NHL),” Larkin said. “ I signed for a chance to play in the NHL and my time in Grand Rapids, I’m more than comfortable spending time there. The coaches they brought in and the players we have we’re going to have a good team again. I’m just going to training camp and having as much fun as possible and playing some games and having fun.”
As for the difficult challenges that await him in September, Larkin said he only focuses on what he can control.
“I just kind of worry about myself,” he said. “I know my game. I’m pretty confident with my game. I’m more worried about how I play.”
Now, let’s get to know more about this 19-year-old top prospect:
|Dylan Larkin |
STATUS: Red Wings first-round pick, No. 15 overall, in last summer’s NHL draft. Has a chance to make the Red Wings’ NHL roster out of training camp this September. If he doesn’t make the cut, he’ll start the 2015-16 season in Grand Rapids with the Wings’ AHL affiliate.
DOB: July 30, 1996, in Pontiac, Michigan.
FIRST HOCKEY MEMORY: “Probably learning how to skate with my brother and cousins at Lakeland Ice Arena.”
HOCKEY HEROES: “Steve Yzerman, Doug Brown, my brother, and I’d probably say Mats Sundin. (Why Doug Brown?) Doug Brown coached me from the time I was 12 until I was 15 or 16. I learned a ton from him and just how much he loves hockey. I played with his son. People always ask when I learned to skate. I was always a pretty good skater, but he kind of made me into an exceptional skater I guess.”
LAST BOOK READ: “‘Unbroken’ it’s a great book. I saw the movie after I read the book. The book is way better.”
CURRENT CAR: “A black 2010 Jeep Cherokee.”
FIRST JOB: “I worked for my dad, making deliveries and working at the house for him. He owns his own business.”
GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: “Winning the U18 World Championship.”
MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “Probably losing in the Big Ten championship.”
FAVORITE UNIFORMS: “I love the Michigan football uniform.”
FAVORITE ARENA: “Yost (Arena in Ann Arbor). Just the atmosphere, the windows, and the Jumbotron.”
CLOSEST HOCKEY FRIENDS: “I have a lot. Niko Porikos, Zach Werenski are the biggest ones. I’d say the whole ’96 USNTDP class as well. (Important to be at this year’s draft for Werenski?) Yeah, for sure, it was cool to be on the other side of it and to see how fired up he was.”
FUNNIEST HOCKEY PERSON KNOWN: “Tyler Bertuzzi and Jake Paterson. Tyler’s always got something going on. He’s funny.”
TOUGHEST COMPETITORS FACED: “Probably (defenseman) Johnny MacLeod on my NTDP team. He’s just a tough guy, hits and blocks shots. He’s fast, strong, and as a forward you don’t want to go up against him in practice.”
MOST MEMORABLE GOAL: “Scored to win the International Silver Sticks, game-winning goal in Newmarket (Ontario), probably when I was 10.”
FUNNY HOCKEY MEMORY: “That’s a tough one. You’ll have to give me a minute. … A few times I forgot my jersey and had to wear a goalie jersey.”
FAVORITE PLAYERS TO WATCH: “Patrick Kane, I love watching Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk live is probably the best.”
FAVORITE SPORT OUTSIDE HOCKEY: “Soccer. I used to play and just love watching it on TV with all the best players in the world.”
QUALITIES ADMIRED IN OTHERS: “Kindness.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: “I’m not going to say ‘Miracle’. Probably ‘Happy Gilmore’.
IF NOT A HOCKEY PLAYER, WHAT: “A soccer player.”
HIDDEN TALENTS: “Maybe soccer.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE: “Hockey.”
LIFE AFTER HOCKEY CAREER: “Stay in it.”
PREFERRED JERSEY NUMBER: “I wear No. 19 because my brother wore it and he wore it because Steve Yzerman wore it.”
OFF DAYS: “Hanging out, playing a little golf, putt putt.”
MOST FAMOUS PERSON IN PHONE: “Luke Glendening.”
FIRST PURCHASE AFTER SIGNING CONTRACT: “I really didn’t buy anything big, I just went to Lululemon.”
GUILTY PLEASURES: “I love Goldfish, the crackers.”
ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO/HAVE BEFORE EVERY GAME: “I have to have coffee with cream and sugar.”
MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL: “Neither.”
IF YOU COULD BE SOMEONE’S TEAMMATE FOR A DAY, WHO: “Sidney Crosby because he’s my idol, and just to get to see how he is.”
GO BACK IN TIME MOMENT: “And everything would be the same? (Yes) Probably, when I was 14, just to relive it all.”
WHAT SCARES YOU: “Getting old, hockey ending.”
MOST EMBARRASSING CHILDHOOD MOMENT: “I was in a wrestling club in elementary school and that was embarrassing now that I look at it. (Were you bad at it?) No, it was like WWE and we would all watch it and try to reenact. (How’d that work out?) I don’t know, we thought we were cool.”