Dynamic Larkin shows no signs of slowing down

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit – You sort of expect the Red Wings' Dylan Larkin to hit the wall at some point.

But the 19-year-old rookie, in his second month in the NHL, continues to excel.

The grind of the NHL schedule doesn't seem to affect him. The more games, the better.

Playing against elite competition doesn't slow him down; Larkin simply matches the challenge.

With each passing game, it's obvious the Red Wings forward is a leading contender for the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year, and cements himself as a future cornerstone of this organization. A Red Wings rookie hasn't won the award since goaltender Roger Crozier in 1965.

But that drought might be over this season.

"He's been great for us," forward Tomas Tatar said.

Saturday's 4-3 overtime victory in St. Louis was the latest example of Larkin's impact on the Red Wings. Larkin had a goal, team-high six shots on net, and several quality scoring chances in the victory. He seemed to be a threat every time he touched the ice.

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Larkin became the first teenager since Steve Yzerman (1984-85) to score a goal in four consecutive games.

Thanks to his goal-scoring streak, Larkin has suddenly taken over the team lead with eight goals. His 15 points is second only to Henrik Zetterberg, who leads the Red Wings with 18.

Larkin also leads the team with 55 shots on net and his plus-12 rating is best on the team and third in the NHL.

Getting the puck on net, attempting to create something offensively, is something that's particularly important on a team that only recently began to flex its muscles offensively.

Coach Jeff Blashill likes that Larkin has been aggressive.

"He attacks and shoots the puck a lot," Blashill said. "He is one of those guys, I don't want to say he overshoots it because it's not that he doesn't make plays, but if he has a chance he's going to shoot it.

"That probably needs to be a little more contagious on our team."

Among NHL rookies, Larkin's eight goals are tied for first (with Arizona's Max Domi) and the 15 points rank third.

Veterans on the team have been impressed with Larkin's skill since the beginning of training camp, but also his competitiveness.

"He's a feisty little guy and his compete level is extremely high," defenseman Mike Green said. "He's always moving and always has his feet going. That makes other teams so frustrated because he's so fast and he competes hard.

"He's got to keep that up."

Green remembered a play earlier in the week over Ottawa. Larkin skated the puck into the zone and instead of attempting of a wraparound – which is the way Larkin scored against Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson earlier this season – Larkin stopped and shot a puck from a difficult angle along the goal line.

The puck somehow found an opening between Anderson and the post, and Larkin had himself a goal.

"He's so dynamic, that kid, he can skate and handle the puck and see (the ice)," Green said. "Most guys would have kept wheeling the net there. He was almost behind the net and sees that hole.

"He planned that. It wasn't an accident. That just shows his dynamic, what kind of player he is."

Time to fly

This portion of the schedule is where the Red Wings can really take off.

Beginning Wednesday when they host Boston, the Red Wings have 11 of their next 13 games at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings have a golden opportunity to stockpile points in a tightly-packed Atlantic Division race.

The concern is, the Red Wings are only 5-5-1 at home.

That will have to change, if the Red Wings want to secure a 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs.

"We have of a number of home games here before Christmas, so we need to do a better job of winning those home games for sure," Blashill said.