It’s rare for teenagers to stick with the Red Wings given the franchise’s history of developing their players through the AHL first, but Dylan Larkin was the exception in 2015-16 as his strong play kept him with Detroit.
Now Larkin’s earning high praise from Red Wings alumni as a result of his efforts.
“What you’ve had here is an anomaly, like it was with Steve Yzerman, where you have a guy that can come in (and contribute),” Darren McCarty told the Detroit Free Press. “Dylan Larkin, obviously, he has comparables to Steve Yzerman, but he’s going to set his own legacy, and it’s great to see.”
John Ogrodnick, who scored 402 goals during his NHL career, compared Larkin to Wayne Gretzky for having “eyes in the back of his head.”
Ogrodnick and McCarty talked about Larkin in greater detail and you can read those quotes in the Detroit Free Press article, but you can see that they both think very highly of the 19-year-old forward. The question now is how much upside Larkin has. To be clear, while Larkin’s rookie campaign provided grounds for hope, it’s not as if he set the world on fire. With 23 goals and 45 points in 80 contests, he wasn’t included in this year’s list of Calder Trophy finalists and fell just outside of the top-five in terms of rookie scoring.
Ultimately we’re going to have to wait and see if Larkin will develop into a top-end talent, but what can be said with a greater degree of certainty is that Detroit needs someone to develop into that kind of player in the near future. Pavel Datsyuk might not return next season and Henrik Zetterberg will turn 36 in October. Their decline and eventual departure (be it this year or down the road) is leaving a big hole in Detroit’s lineup and while Larkin can’t hope to fill it alone, in a best case scenario Larkin would be a significant piece of Detroit’s new core.