Detroit Red Wings’ star rookie Dylan Larkin is a “Michigan Man” in every sense of the term.
The Waterford Township, Michigan, native is fortunate to have spent his entire hockey career in the state, from his early days in Lakeland, to Triple-A hockey with Honeybaked and Belle Tire, then to the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and college hockey at the University of Michigan before reaching the NHL with his hometown Detroit Red Wings.
“It’s pretty cool being able to stay at home and live at home for awhile, play in front of my parents and be familiar with the area,” Larkin said.
The pinnacle came when the 19-year-old was drafted No. 15 overall in 2014 by the Red Wings. Larkin fondly remembers watching greats like defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and — now teammates — Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk serve as role models and lead the Red Wings.
“I grew up a fan,” Larkin said. “To be a first-round draft pick by your hometown team is something pretty cool. I’m fortunate enough that it happened to me.”
Larkin, after starring at Honeybaked, won three state titles at Belle Tire and served as captain for the national championship team in 2011.
“I had a lot of fun playing for those organizations and being a kid, just growing my passion for the game,” Larkin said. “You don’t ever think that you would be here, playing in the NHL, but it was a big dream.”
The NTDP helped him achieve his dream.
“It was probably a big reason why I’m here now,” Larkin said.
In his second season with the NTDP, Larkin was second on the team with 31 goals and fourth in points with 56 in 60 games.
“[The NTDP] helped me separate from guys my age,” Larkin said. “Being able to practice against some of the best players in the country, and to have the best training, a tough schedule in the USHL and play college teams as a 17-year-old was really big for me.”
The experience has helped Larkin shine on the next level. In one year at Michigan, he was Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year and finished second in the conference in scoring. Then he became the first teenager in the Red Wings’ lineup since Jiri Hudler in 2003-04.
His international experience has helped him thrive, too.
Larkin was an alternate captain when the U.S. won a gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championship. He was the third-leading scorer for the U.S. team that finished third at the 2013 World U17 Hockey Challenge and led the team in scoring with five goals during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. He also won a bronze medal during the 2015 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
Last week, Larkin was one of 16 players named to the preliminary roster for the North American team — made up of U23 players from Canada and the U.S. — that will compete at the World Cup of Hockey this summer in Toronto.
“USA Hockey is awesome and they do a great job building teams with a focus on winning championships and having fun at the same time,” Larkin said. “Any time you get to wear the red, white and blue, it’s a huge honor.”
Playing in the NHL is also a huge honor for Larkin, who was recognized for a standout rookie season with a trip to Nashville for this year’s All-Star game. He was the first Red Wings’ rookie to reach the All-Star game since Steve Yzerman more than 30 years ago.
“It was crazy,” Larkin said. “There was a lot of attention and things going on, but it was also a lot of fun. It was a good weekend with my family, just kind of relaxing and getting to know the other guys.”
He even made history while he was at it.
Larkin, known for his speed and skating ability, set the record for the fastest skater during the All-Star Game Skills Competition when he broke Mike Gartner’s 20-year-old mark.
“It was cool,” Larkin said. “I just gave it all I had to see if I could beat it.”
He continues to do the same and thrive with his hometown Red Wings.
“It’s a blessing,” Larkin said. “I’ve been really lucky to be able to have my whole career played in Michigan.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.