Larkin, 19, makes Red Wings: 'He’s earned a chance'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit – Dylan Larkin, just 19, has made the Red Wings' opening night roster.

The Waterford native and last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year at Michigan was informed after Monday’s practice he’ll be on the roster when the Wings open their season Friday night at home against the Maple Leafs.

“If a guy made our team better and is going to play minutes, then he was going to make our team, whether it was him or somebody else," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We feel he’s earned a chance to play a top-nine (forward) role, which is going to give him minutes to be successful.

“As a result, we made the decision to put him on the team.”

Blashill wasn’t sure entering training camp Larkin would be able to make the team – but the youngster’s play stood out.

“If he didn’t grab the job, the easier thing to do would be to put in GR (Grand Rapids) and see where it goes,” Blashill said. “But I personally felt he makes us better and to such an amount that we felt he should start on the team.

“Ask people around the league and they might say the safer thing would be to put him in GR. But we feel he’s earned that spot.”

Larkin spoke with the media after Monday’s practice but before he was told he had made the team.
Larkin said he was “not stressing” about the decision.

“I’m just set to play,” Larkin said. “The whole summer I didn’t know my future."

In fact, Larkin seemed resigned to the fact that he might have to start in Grand Rapids.

“I’d take it as the best experience of my life,” said Larkin of this training camp. “To make it this far on an NHL team is quite an accomplishment.”

Larkin impressed everyone in the Red Wings front office, coaching staff, and locker room with his maturity level and talent, and hockey sense on the ice.

Dylan Larkin moves the puck during a camp practice in September.

Playing against top players such as Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Larkin didn’t look out of place.

“I learned what kind of player I can be playing against the best,” said Larkin. “I’m not saying right now (I'm with those players) but I can be that kind of player.

“It’s awesome being here and it would be a dream come true (to make the Wings). It’s something I’ve always wanted and I worked for my whole life and dreamed about.”

Larkin was skating on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader Monday, although Blashill wouldn’t commit to that line going forward.

“That’s always a day-to-day stuff,” Blashill said. “You know with injuries and stuff. But what we’ve looked at is starting him with Z and Abby. That’s something we talked about. But that could change come Friday.”

Players and coaches have been impressed with Larkin throughout the exhibition season.

Former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, now with Toronto, wasn’t surprised by Larkin’s development.
“I saw him at Michigan and saw him at the world championships (in May) and he’s obviously an elite player,” Babcock said. “Unbelievable legs and better drive train, he competes hard and works hard. He looks to me like a real good player.”

Said goaltender Jimmy Howard: “He’s going to be a special player. It’s going to be fun watching him develop. His speed -- it’s lightning fast, and he sees the ice, even with the speed that he generates.”

The Red Wings will likely waive Daniel Cleary before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. roster deadline. Darren Helm (shoulder separation, concussion), who is on short-term injured reserve, probably isn’t ready to start the season in Detroit.

Helm skated briefly Monday but left the ice before practice began.