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Larkin, 19, hopes to skate past minors, make Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit – Life has changed for Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin.

As Larkin has begun skating with other Red Wings and players in the organization at Joe Louis Arena this week, his former life has resumed without him in it.

"All my friends went back to school; it was the first day of school yesterday," said Larkin, 19, who left after his freshman season at Michigan to sign a pro contract in May. "It was good not to have to worry about that. For me, especially, I love hockey and that's all I've wanted to do since I was a little kid.

"To get that chance, it's awesome."

Instead of worrying about classes, Larkin is attempting to bypass a stay in Grand Rapids and make the Red Wings roster right out of the exhibition season.

It's likely not going to happen, but variables such as injuries and Larkin having an outstanding month of September could change minds in the organization.

Larkin, a Waterford native and 2014 first-round draft pick, was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and followed that with impressive performances at the men's World Championships and American League playoffs with Grand Rapids.

Expectations are big, but Larkin feels he can handle them.

"There are expectations, but the expectations I put on myself, I'd say there's more pressure I put on myself," Larkin said. "To be on the Detroit Red Wings is something I want really bad.

"I'm not really worried about it (where he'll play at the start of the season). Where I play I'll have fun and I'll be contributing to the team, and I get to play hockey and have fun every day.

"There are no distractions of school work or anything else. My expectations are to have fun, score goals, and win."

Larking got a taste of pro hockey last spring, brief as it was, participating in one AHL playoff series.

“That was huge,” said Larkin, who had five points (three goals) in six games with the Griffins in the Western Conference finals. “Spending time down there and learning how to be a pro, learning what to expect coming into camp.

“To play for Blash (coach Jeff Blashill) was huge. It was a good experience.”

Rumors late last week on several hockey websites suggesting Larkin decided to turn pro because of coach Mike Babcock’s departure to Toronto were inaccurate, said Larkin.

“They said I signed just because Babcock left, which is kind of twisting my words,” Larkin said. “That’s not really true. It was a pretty subtle question but they asked if that was one of the factors and I said ‘yes,’ with Blash coming here, I feel like it’s a new opportunity. It’s not everything.

“With my abilities and the player I want to be, I think I can help the Detroit Red Wings.”

Larkin is beginning to understand and realize the impact a homegrown hockey player has on his community.

This summer, while training at his home rink the Lakeland Ice Arena in Waterford Township, Larkin was recognized by young kids who were just like he was growing up, dreaming of playing in the NHL.

“I skated with them and told them them they could be me and that I was just like them,” Larkin said. “I hope to make the Red Wings but I’m patient because I feel like someday I’ll be in this locker room.”