Larkin jumps into fray at Red Wings camp
Traverse City — Dylan Larkin could have taken a few days off and relaxed.
Larkin had just finished competing in the World Cup of Hockey and coach Jeff Blashill intended on giving all the players who competed in the tournament five days off to rest.
Larkin, at the tender age of 20 and feeling he wasn’t overworked on Team North America, wouldn’t have any of it.
Larkin was already on the ice Saturday, having arrived in Traverse City the day before, and was feeling good about it.
“I wanted to be in Traverse City, wanted to come up here,” Larkin said. “It was busy in Toronto, a lot of things going on. Being here and with the team, I just want to keep it going and continue the pace of play at the World Cup.”
It wasn’t all great news for Larkin in the tournament.
He was a healthy scratch in the last game of the star-studded, under-23 team made up of North Americans, and for the tournament, had one point (an assist) in two games, with a plus-1 rating.
“Obviously you want to play,” Larkin said. “But I have to think, maybe look at the game against Russia, I didn’t do enough and they had other guys there for a reason and need to get into the lineup.
“I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m happy to be here and life goes on and I have 82 more chances to prove myself and maybe show them I should have been playing the last game.”
It’s that kind competitiveness that Blashill, and the Red Wings, hope will fuel a big sophomore season for Larkin with the Red Wings.
Larkin had 23 goals and 22 assists (45 points) in 80 games last season, but slumped the second half, the long, grueling NHL schedule seemingly having an effect.
Blashill’s expectations of Larkin aren’t necessarily in terms of goals and assists, but of continuing to improve.
“My focus with him is not any kind of points but getting better every day, getting better at faceoffs, better in all those areas where it takes to be a real good player,” Blashill said. “That’ll be focus, a day-to-day improvement.”
Larkin will move from wing to center this season, maybe as early as opening night.
There will be more responsibilities, particularly in terms of faceoffs, defense, creating offense for himself and his linemates.
Larkin is eager to take on the responsibility.
“It’s a whole new challenge, it’s kind of owning a line,” Larkin said. “A guy like Henrik Zetterberg, he controls that line. If Z isn’t on that night, it’s going to be tough for the other players. So, I have to work on faceoffs and work on little details that will make me a better player all the way around, in the defensive zone.
“It’s a challenge, but I want to keep building on my speed and taking guys on, and (build) the way I play and to create offense for this team.”
Blashill feels Larkin will make the switch successfully.
“His competitiveness level is so high, he’s going to find a way to become good at it,” Blashill said. “It’ll help our hockey team to have him in those spots, and he’s been a center most of his career. He learned a lot of important lessons on the wing, he got a chance obviously to learn from two of the best two-way centers in the game in Pavel (Datsyuk) and Hank (Zetterberg) and he’s a fast learner.
“I’ve got a lot of trust in him.”