Each day over the next month or so, we’re taking a look back at the season that was by going through each player’s season. Today, we start off with arguably the Red Wings’ best player this season- rookie forward Dylan Larkin.
A lot of heads turned in the Motor City when Dylan Larkin was in the starting lineup for the Detroit Red Wings first game of the year, and not with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL.
After all, he is the first teenager to don a Red Wings jersey since Jiri Fischer played in the 1999-00 season. And this is a team that is notorious for making sure their prospects are developed and ready before they play in the big leagues.
However, one year removed from being selected 15th overall by his hometown team, Larkin would make his NHL debut on October 9 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and make a strong impression, scoring his first goal in the game. And from that point on, he would embark on what would be an interesting rookie season.
Chart via Own the Puck
Not a bad start to his career, as 23 goals in 80 games from a rookie is certainly not something to scoff at. His 0.56 points per game is a solid start as well, especially in a low scoring league. His HERO chart points to 1st line production in his first season. Another thing to note is the 2.76 shots per game, also a good sign as a rookie. His production dipped in the postseason, but considering he finished off the season with 7 points in the final 28 games, it is certainly no surprise. Whether it takes another year or two, Larkin still needs to adjust to an 82+ game season, although his production should improve next season to a 50, maybe even 60, point production. His 10.4 S% is a cause for concern, but until proven wrong, I’m going to assume that he can sustain it.
Early on in his career, Larkin has shown no signs of possession impact. While his CF% was sixth among Detroit regular forwards, his 0.11 CF%Rel showed that there isn’t much of a difference between when he was on or off the ice, although it is positive, so he didn’t hurt the team. His CF60 of 56.73 was a good sign of driving offense, while his CA60 of 52.54 showed early signs of defensive issues, although that is to expect from a rookie that isn’t named Connor McDavid. Another note was his 303 iCF and 221 shots, and that only 82 shot attempts were blocked or missed, which showed some promise in his shot accuracy. Also, his possession impact made an impressive jump in the postseason, especially his CF60 of 66.4. It’s a tiny sample size, but if he can drive play with similar success in a larger sample, it’s great news for Detroit.
Unlike Corsi, Larkin displayed a much more significant impact with goals, as displayed by his 10.75 GF%Rel, and his 55.95 GF% was second among forwards only to Pulkkinen (60%). Although the 2.09 GA60 doesn’t leave the best impression on his defense, especially keeping in mind that the goalies stopped 93.39% of the shots with him on the ice, the 2.66 GF60 is a good start to his career. His numbers dipped in the playoffs, but considering that nothing seemed to go his way in those five games, we can write it off.
Scoring chances appears to be Larkin’s weakness this season. He’s generated close to what he’s given up while on the ice, and in comparison to the rest of the team, he’s slightly worse, although he’s seventh amongst Red Wings regular forwards. It got worse in the postseason, as he was a -1.47 SCF%Rel to the team, and his SC+/- was even. This will need to be a facet of Larkin’s game that he might want to improve going forward, although that should come with the adjustment to the NHL.
Similar to scoring chances, Larkin was also less impactful in the Fenwick department, as shown by his -0.41 FF%Rel this season. His dead even 50% was seventh amongst Red Wings regular forwards. It took a positive climb in the playoffs, so maybe it’s something that we might see more of in the future with Larkin.
Expect Larkin to improve on his rookie season with a 50+ point season, maybe even a 60 point season if he’s lucky.
However, if he doesn’t get the bounces going his way next season, he could suffer from the “sophomore slump”, so if that’s the case, we could possibly see something in the range of 30-35 points.
His role with the Wings will grow, because unless they find an adequate replacement for Pavel Datsyuk, Larkin might be the player looked to fill his role (or who knows, maybe it will be Luke Glendening).
Finally, his defensive game will take a step or two forward. Certainly not at the level of Datsyuk, but enough that he won’t be considered a liability, although if he’s pushed into a role that he’s not capable of handling, his defense might worsen.
It was an excellent season to begin the career of young Dylan Larkin. He proved that he is at the very least a top 6 forward on the Wings offensively, if not a first line calibre player for them. His defensive game still needs some work, but that’s not a surprise for a player in their first year.
He is certainly a player that will provide a large impact on the Detroit Red Wings as he grows as a player, but until then, he is still one of the Wings best scorers.
It wasn’t a perfect season for Larkin, but he exceeded even some of the more optimistic expectations when he started the season with the Wings, and he still has some room to blossom into a top-end NHL forward.