By Nick Barnowski –
TRAVERSE CITY – Dylan Larkin is putting a new twist on how to be defined as a “Michigan Man.”
Usually reserved for members of the University of Michigan football program, the newest Red Wings prospect and Wolverine commit is the hockey equivalent of a Michigan man in a broader sense.
Every stride in Larkin’s hockey career has come in the state of Michigan, and after being selected by the Wings at No. 15 overall in last month’s NHL Entry Draft, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.
“It’s pretty cool,” the Waterford native said. “Obviously my mom and dad get to see me play and it’s cool for them. It’s cool to set a path for the kids growing up.”
Larkin is the first-ever Michigan-born player to be drafted in the first round by the Red Wings. Though he has that honor, the club is not afraid to bring hometown skaters aboard as Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon), Luke Glendening (Grand Rapids), Drew Miller (East Lansing) and Danny DeKeyser (Clay Township) all are NHL regulars with the Wings.
Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill said he could relate to how Larkin has felt since being drafted.
“I can speak firsthand about what it’s like to be a Michigan kid with the Red Wings organization,” said Blashill, a Sault Ste. Marie native. “It’s a cool thing.
“I was in the Red Wings suite at the draft when the family came up and I could tell they were ecstatic to be in the Red Wings organization. I think lots of people are when you’re drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, but especially someone that grew up in the Detroit area.”
Larkin turned heads as a state and national champion with Belle Tire in his youth hockey days. The 6-foot-1-inch center played on Belle Tire’s Bantam Major AAA team in 2010-11 and had 47 points in 30 games. The next season, he captained the Belle Tire U16 squad, scoring 13 goals in 20 games.
Moving from Detroit to Ann Arbor, Larkin joined the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2012 and has exceled ever since. This past season with the U18 team, he scored 31 goals and added 25 assists in 60 games, standing out on a team made up of America’s best young players.
He’ll stay in Ann Arbor as a member of the Michigan hockey team this upcoming season. While he isn’t sure if the connection the Red Wings have with Michigan schools will help him down the road, he’s just happy that things are set up like a dream.
“When I committed [to UM] I had no idea that this was going to happen,” Larkin said. “I just felt comfortable with the coaching staff and the area. It’s a great program and that’s kind of why I picked it.”
Because Larkin is taking the NCAA route, Blashill stated that this week’s camp is especially important. Due to NCAA rules, players cannot play in the September prospects tournament or the main training camp, so this their one chance to make an impression on Red Wings brass.
“We want them to try and really learn the ‘Red Wing Way,’” Blashill said. “It’s a short window for sure, it’s the middle of the summer, and they have to do a great job.”
Larkin said that at this level of hockey, everything is taken much more seriously.
“Attention to detail makes a bigger difference. Creating time and space is huge. You’ve got to be strong and win battles.
“It’s been a tough few days adjusting to the bigger game and I look forward to getting back in the gym to work on that,” he said.
As Larkin grows, so will the impact he has on youth hockey players throughout the state of Michigan.
“It’s a big thing now,” he said. “The kids are noticing who I am and hopefully they follow my path. I’m still youth but I think as I get older and I move up the ladder it will mean even more to me.”