By @MichaelCaples –
May 21 marked the one-year anniversary of Waterford native Dylan Larkin officially signing a contract with the Detroit Red Wings, the NHL club that drafted him No. 15 overall in 2014.
After one year with the Michigan Wolverines, Larkin – a Belle Tire and USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program product – decided he was ready for professional hockey, and he signed with his hometown team to forego his final three seasons of NCAA eligibility.
How did the decision turn out for the budding star? Larkin impressed so much during the off-season, training camp and the preseason that he found himself on the Red Wings’ opening-night roster, and he proceeded to lead the team in goals (with 23) as a 19-year-old rookie.
It didn’t take long for Larkin to become a fan favorite in Hockeytown; now, let’s take a look back at the first 365 days of his new job.
After holding his own at the World Championship with Team USA, Larkin decided it was time to turn pro; the Big Ten’s rookie of the year had 47 points in 35 games with the Wolverines.
The Grand Rapids Griffins dropped Larkin into the line-up in the midst of their AHL playoff run, and he had no problems fitting in. The Wings’ AHL affiliate didn’t win it all in the 2015 postseason, but Larkin’s rookie performance was a highlight – he posted five points in six games.
In July, Larkin talked about how he was dealing with his new-found fame and the expectations swirling around him. Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland said that if Larkin could prove himself as a top-six forward, he would be with Detroit, but it seemed more likely that he would start the season in Grand Rapids.
With new coach Jeff Blashill ready to lead the Red Wings, Larkin settled into his first training camp with Detroit, ready to prove his worth. A video from the first day of camp showed him flying past captain Henrik Zetterberg; a sign of things to come.
With three goals and an assist in five preseason appearances, Larkin was garnering all kinds of headlines in September.
On Oct. 5, Larkin told MiHockey about his meeting with Blashill and Holland – one that informed the rookie forward that he would be in the line-up for the Red Wings’ home opener against Toronto.
Scoring in your first NHL game with all your family and friends sitting in the stands at Joe Louis Arena? Dream come true, safe to say, for the 19-year-old phenom.
It almost wasn’t necessary to report on, but ESPN confirmed that Larkin would be staying with the Red Wings on Oct. 27 – a decision that Larkin impressed in the nine-game window that prospects are afforded before teams send them down to delay paying them the big bucks.
Rookie of the Month award? Only took until the second month of the NHL season – Larkin racked up seven goals and three assists in the timeframe.
If not for the John Scott drama, Larkin may have been the biggest news of the All-Star Game roster announcement; he was the only teenager selected for the event, and only one of two rookies (accompanied by fellow NTDP alum John Gibson; a goaltender three years older than Larkin).
He didn’t end up being a finalist for the award, but the wild first half of his rookie campaign merited major recognition from the league.
His junior team held “Dylan Larkin Night” in Plymouth, as the NTDP welcomed back their hometown star for a ceremonial puck drop and other festivities. It was one of many celebrity-like moments for the young star.
The most memorable moment from the ‘BAUER Experience of a Lifetime’ event at The Joe? Larkin sneaking onto the ice early to photobomb a team picture for a local girls’ team – one of numerous moments where the Waterford native showed his humility and understanding for his new role in Hockeytown.
New speed record at the All-Star Game? Check. Don’t forget, he almost slipped around one of the turns – and he still broke the record.
“D-Boss” is something he won’t live down for a while, but Larkin’s viral video ‘situation’ wasn’t anything more than a laughing matter.
Larkin was one of a few Michigan natives to make the early selection list for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, which will take place this summer. He, along with Commerce native Connor Hellebuyck, will be on the ‘North America’ roster – an all-star team of the best 23-and-under players from the U.S. and Canada.
In one of the more humorous stories from the 2015-16 season, Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren tried to give some praise to Larkin, but it came out kind of awkward.
Another year, another World Championship appearance – Larkin finished tied for the U.S. scoring lead with Auston Matthews at the tournament.
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