Detroit has a reputation for letting its players over ripen in the minors before allowing them to crack the team’s roster, but how much of that is philosophy and how much of it is necessity?
As a consequence of making the playoffs every year and often trading the first-round pick, the reality is that the Red Wings have to draft projects rather than players that are close to being NHL-ready. They nearly missed the postseason in 2013-14 though and on top of that the New Jersey Devils were forced to drop to the 30th spot as punishment for their original attempt to sign Ilya Kovalchuk, which led to the Red Wings possessing the 15th overall selection — their highest since 1991.
The Red Wings took Dylan Larkin with that pick, a skilled forward and a potential fan favorite thanks to his Michigan roots. He attended the University of Michigan in 2014-15 as a freshman and recorded 15 goals and 47 points in 35 contests. Afterwards, he joined the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins for their playoff run, scoring three goals and five points in six games.
“Dylan did a real good job when he stepped in for us in the AHL playoffs,” then Griffins and current Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said, per NHL.com. “To step in and have the impact he had, he didn’t look good as a young player. He was good.
“How close is he? He’s certainly close. What does that mean come camp? We’ll see. Everybody takes different journeys to the get to the NHL. How quickly those journeys are depends on the player and the work they put in this summer.”
That being said, Red Wings GM Ken Holland is predicting that it will be tough for Larkin to make the opening game roster. Part of that is due to Detroit’s logjam up front as it already has 16 forwards signed to one-way contracts. Given that, it will be tough for any rookie to make the team.
Still, if one can break through, it would likely be Larkin.