Plymouth Township – It’s August, hockey season is getting closer, and Dylan Larkin can’t wait.
This time of year could be the worst for a rink rat like Larkin, who normally has to be chased off the ice. There's still four weeks before the Wings begin training camp in Traverse City.
But after participating Thursday in the PEP Power Edge Pro Camp at USA Hockey Arena, Larkin was already thinking ahead to camp, and his anticipation surrounding this Red Wings' season.
“You get to the dog days of August where you’re sick of being in the gym and you want to be back with all the guys,” Larkin said. “More guys are coming back into town and it’s good seeing them.
"It was a good break. But with our finish to last season (8-2-0) fresh in the mind, gaining confidence winning games, plus we added some good pieces – it’s exciting.”
In some early NHL season projections, analysts don’t share Larkin’s optimism.
The Wings are generally being picked again toward the bottom of the Atlantic Division – though with the belief they could move up slightly in the standings because of the young talent on the roster.
The core of Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha all had career-best seasons, and defenseman Filip Hronek impressed after being promoted from Grand Rapids in the second half of the season.
The addition of forwards Valtteri Filppula and Adam Erne, and defenseman Patrik Nemeth, solidified the depth on the roster.
Add prospects such as forwards Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Joe Veleno, plus defensemen Moritz Seider, Dennis Cholowski and Oliwer Kaski, and the future looks bright.
Larkin believes there’s much hope for this season, as well.
“We can be very competitive every night and go on hot stretches,” said Larkin, adding there’s one important ingredient: “Get off to a good start.”
He added: “We’re going to have to come out to a good start, and that’s something we didn’t do last year (1-7-2). It’s all-in the start and getting some steam and getting buzz around town, and young guys contributing and gaining confidence.”
Part of the excitement surrounding the Wings is the arrival of general manager Steve Yzerman.
The Red Wings legend and Hall of Famer replaced long-time GM Ken Holland (who went to Edmonton) in April, and Yzerman’s arrival – after a successful run as the Tampa Bay Lightning GM – has injected excitement among Wings’ fans.
Larkin has only spoken sparingly with Yzerman this offseason but can see and feel Yzerman’s impact.
“His history and legacy speak for itself,” Larkin said. “He’s a pretty impressive guy. Just how dialed into the game he is, and what he’s done with Tampa, he knows what it takes to get to the level they’re at.
“I’m just real excited for it.”
There’s been much speculation about Larkin following in the footsteps of Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg as the Wings’ next captain, as soon as this season.
Larkin was named one of the alternate captains last season, upon the retirement of Zetterberg due to persistent back pain, and Larkin had a splendid season on and off the ice.
Along with posting career-high seasons of 32 goals and 73 points, Larkin noticeably took on an increased leadership role.
But Larkin was in no mood Thursday to add to the speculation, feeling all the talk has been unfair to his teammates.
“You think about it (the captaincy) but I get to play hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, in the NHL, and that’s my dream, whether I’m wearing a letter or not,” Larkin said. “I get to play hockey in the NHL and I’m very happy with that.”
The current Wings’ roster has many potential captains, said Larkin, noting leadership isn’t a problem.
“That’s why I’m a little embarrassed (with the talk of the captaincy) – it’s not fair to those guys,” Larkin said. “We have a large handful of guys who could be wearing that letter. We have great leadership in our locker room.
“Leadership isn’t an issue around the Detroit Red Wings and hasn’t been for a long time.”