Great expectations: Larkin thriving against top centers, lines
Dylan Larkin is living up to expectations. Said goaltender Jimmy Howard, “We all knew how special a player he was when he was coming in.”
Dylan Larkin’s development is going exactly the way the Red Wings organization hoped it would.
The 22-year-old center, who is in his fourth season, leads Detroit with 14 points in 13 games, on six goals and eight assists. He’s raised his play even more during the Wings’ current three-game winning streak with two goals and seven points.
“He’s been tremendous for us this year,” Jimmy Howard told the Detroit Free Press. “He’s one of our best players night in and night out. He’s been flying, creating a lot of havoc in the offensive zone and been really responsible in the defensive zone. He’s made so many great strides.
“We all knew how special a player he was when he was coming in.”
Larkin, who is from Waterford, was Detroit’s first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2014 NHL draft.
And after the retirement of Henrik Zetterberg, Larkin is the Red Wings’ No. 1 center and wears an “A” as an alternate captain.
“You realize the situation of losing our best player, and for me, I had a lot of time to personally think about how that affects me and how it affects our team,” Larkin said. “You just have to step up. I’m playing simple and I’m loving hockey and I’m having fun and love who I’m playing with.”
He is also relishing and responding to the challenge of going against opponents’ No. 1 centers and lines.
Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who’s put him in those positions, is not surprised.
“I’ve done it at different times throughout his career here, I’ve done it in the World Championships, and he’s played excellent in those situations,” Blashill said after Thursday night’s 4-3 home win over the New Jersey Devils, in which Larkin had two assists. “He really rises to the occasion … He takes it personally, and he wants to win the match.”
Saturday night Larkin will face, maybe, the ultimate challenge in superstar Connor McDavid when the Red Wings host the Edmonton Oilers (7-4-1) at Little Caesars Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.
McDavid has won the last two Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading scorer; the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2017, and the last two Ted Lindsay Awards as the NHL Players Association Most Outstanding Player. So far this season he has nine goals and 10 assists in 12 games.
“He’s played against some great lines, and he will again on Saturday,” Blashill said. “It brings out his best competitiveness.”
Larkin will take the same approach to playing against McDavid as he has other top centers.
“It’s a tough task, but I do think there is an opportunity there to capitalize on offense,” Larkin said. “These top lines, they don’t want to play defense, they want an easy night.”