Silencing the Doubters
During a season in which he says “not much has felt great,” Dylan Larkin remains positive. During the game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Larkin scored his 30th goal of the season. Larkin became the first Red Wing to record 30 goals in a season since Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and Marian Hossa passed the marker during the 2008-09 season. Larkin was not shy in showing how he felt about the milestone.
“Through contract negotiating and the end of the last couple of years, people said I wasn’t a goal scorer,” Larkin said in an interview with Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. “I tried to focus on it this summer. I set a goal before every season to try and get to 30, I think every player does and should. It is bittersweet because of the situation we’re in now, but it does feel pretty good that hard work pays off. To prove to people that I could be a goal scorer in this league.”
Finding His Footing
The 22-year-old center is finally finding his place amongst the NHL. Larkin has recorded a total of 68 points and counting after adding a goal and an assist in the Wings most recent game against the Devils. The 68 points are enough for Larkin to crack the top-50 in point scoring and is a career best for the future Wings captain. Larkin further commented on his scoring success this season. “Any player wants to score goals. It’s one of the greatest joys of this game. You want to have the puck on your stick and make plays. It feels pretty good in a season where not much has felt great this year,” he told St. James.
Many would agree that Larkin’s potential far exceeds his point totals. Given better circumstances, he’d be much higher in the ranks of point scoring. Unfortunately for Larkin, he sits on a rebuilding Detroit hockey team that gives him little help. Despite this fact, he continues to thrive and score points. At just 22 years of age, Larkin is still teeming with potential. The Waterford native has quickly become the face of the franchise, and given the right pieces, he could be not only a fantastic playmaker but one of the league’s most lethal goal scorers.
Lifting the Team
Larkin has been a massive factor for the Red Wings success late this season. The Wings have now won six of their last seven games, which has damaged their draft lottery odds but has given the team a massive boost of confidence. Most recently, Andreas Athanasiou has joined Larkin in the 30 goals club. Athanasiou passed the mark by scoring the Wings final goal in the 4-0 win over New Jersey on Saturday.
Jeff Blashill shared similar thoughts about Larkin’s impact in a postgame interview with Helene St. James. “A lot of nights he’s our engine,” Blashill said. “There are a lot of other good players on the team but he is our engine, and he needs to play at that high level, and he has.” Blashill also pointed out that when Larkin was drafted back in 2014, scoring wasn’t considered one of his strong attributes. Now, just five years later, Larkin has put the league on notice, becoming one of the most elite, well-rounded players in the NHL.
“It’s been awesome to watch him work at getting better,” Blashill continued. “He puts the time in to get the number of repetitions it takes to get better at things. He’s truly gotten better and better and better and better in a lot of different areas of his offensive game.” This growth and work ethic continue to show that Larkin is one of the league’s best workhorses. He still doesn’t get the respect he so rightfully deserves.
The Journey Continues
Dylan Larkin works harder than most players in the NHL. It takes character and leadership to be able to be the face of a franchise at such a young age. His ability to take charge in itself puts himself leagues ahead of many in the NHL. Jeff Blashill further commented with St. James on Larkin’s work ethic. “Everybody works hard, everybody trains in the gym, everybody skates. But are you willing to go and just shoot pucks over and over again and get better at a skill. [sic] A lot of guys aren’t. He is. That’s why he’s continued to get better and exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. I can’t put a ceiling on him. When you have that kind of inner drive, you can never put a ceiling on a player.”
Despite all of this, Larkin still has a long way to go before earning the respect of his doubters. As his team gets better, Larkin will only improve. He has a bright career in front of him and already has a solid basis around him. After a slow start, Andreas Athanasiou is finally showing potential at the center position. Tyler Bertuzzi has become notorious for his play in front of the net, and Anthony Mantha is working on his game and has shown he can be a lethal scorer as well. We saw nine great games from 2018 first round draft pick Filip Zadina, and Joe Veleno is lighting the lamp like crazy in Drummondville. With the right team around him, Larkin can change his image from underrated scorer to one of the faces of the NHL.