It’s not hard to see that Dylan Larkin is the best player on a rebuilding Detroit Red Wings team. At 22 years-old, he’s been dubbed the cornerstone of the franchise. But there was always that lingering feeling of whether or not you can be a true Stanley Cup contender with Larkin as your best player?
Just look around their own division. Super-star names like Auston Matthews, Nikita Kucherov, Aleksander Barkov, and many more high-profile players flood the Atlantic Division. Would Dylan Larkin leading the charge really be much of a challenge to the best of the best?
Before the 2018-19 campaign, I would have said no. Now? Well, the University of Michigan product is elevating his game to the next level and is aiming towards stardom. One in which, can in fact, be your best player on a contending team.
With the loss of Henrik Zetterberg, a major hole in the lineup needed to be filled. Larkin was asked to take on the extra responsibility and he has delivered. 16 games into the season and he has amassed 16 points (7 goals and 9 assists). He is averaging the most ice-time of any Detroit forward by a large margin. The closest forward to his 20:52 TOI is Gustav Nyquist with 17:20 minutes per game. Not only has he been playing top-line center and both special teams, he’s been Jeff Blashill’s go-to-guy for match-ups. He leads all Detroit players in percentage of his time on ice versus quality competition (according to Corsica.hockey).
He’s been an absolute workhorse.
Maybe the impressive attribute he’s developed is his leadership. For the first time in franchise history the Red Wings captaincy is vacant. He’s leading by example, and the team is rallying behind him.
“He wants to be the guy that everyone is counting on in this room and be an impact player night in and night out,” goaltender Jimmy Howard told the Detroit Free Press. “I think he’s done that for the majority of most games for us – he’s probably been our best player.”
There’s no denying what he means to that locker-room. He’s kept the motor on, even after a winless start in the first 7 games. Now the team is red-hot, having won 5 of their last 6 contests. Since October 20th, only the Tampa Bay Lightning have more wins.
Larkin has been the center point of the team’s recovery in the standings. Over those 6 games he has 9 points, including the game winners in Detroit’s back-to-back 2 goal deficit comebacks against the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 7, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 10, 2018
There is no doubt Larkin has thrived this year, and the best part is he’s still getting better. If the ping pong balls don’t fall Detroit’s way as they continue with the rebuild, they still have a marquee player to build around for years to come.
The snip show is just getting started.