Wings take Michigan native Dylan Larkin in first round of draft
JUN 27, 2014 9:32p ET
It's a great day to be Dylan Larkin.
Larkin is from Waterford, Mich., played for Belle Tire's midget minor program, then for the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team in Ann Arbor and committed to the University of Michigan.
On Friday night, Larkin's hometown team, the Detroit Red Wings, selected Larkin with the 15th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, held this year at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
"This is the place I wanted to be," Larkin told reporters in Philadelphia. "I was open-minded but in the bottom of my heart I really wanted to be in Detroit. They got the new rink they're building, it's going to be an exciting time for the organization."
The organization was thrilled that Larkin was available at No. 15, having targeted him early.
“This could be one of your captains down the road.”
"I knew right away," Wings director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright told reporters in Philadelphia. "I watched the U.S. program play a lot and I've never seen this kid play a bad game. He may not have been the best player every game but this guy drives the bus for that team and a very good team."
Larkin, who doesn't turn 18 until July 30, wore No. 19 for the USNTDP for just the reason you'd imagine.
"Steve Yzerman, the captain, pretty much says it all, the way he led his team," Larkin said. "He played a two-way game. Off the ice, the way he acted, he was a true professional, a class guy."
Although Larkin is likely several years away from playing for the Wings, he already got a warm welcome from another special Wings center.
Via his Twitter account, @Datsyuk13, Pavel Datsyuk said, "Congratulations to Dylan Larkin and welcome to the @DetroitRedWings organization. Looking forward to play with you."
Larkin was so pleased that he retweeted it on his Twitter account, @Dylanlarkin39.
The Michigan kid has never had to go far from home and still won't have to as he'll remain in Ann Arbor to play for legendary coach Red Berenson.
"It's exciting for him, it's exciting for us, we get to keep close track and (director of player development) Jiri Fischer's pretty excited that he doesn't have to go too far to work with the kid," Wright said. "It's a good relationship with the Wings and Michigan and kids from Michigan. He's got Canadian parents, his dad's from Scarborough, Ontario. The kids comes from a good background, a good family and he's going to be a good addition to our prospects."
Larkin's parents will likely enjoy the fact that they won't have to travel far to watch his games.
"It's a good path for Detroit kids, growing up playing AAA in Detroit," Larkin said. "Even if I'm in the AHL, it's still Michigan, so they won't have to go far to see me play."
Larkin was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League but opted for college hockey as he and his family value an education.
Playing for an excellent college hockey program won't hurt either.
"I'm looking to improve on my strength," the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Larkin said. "To play at the next level, even in college, you got to be strong. It's important to get in the gym and spend time on my body and nutrition."
Larkin has already made tremendous strides with the USNTDP. He had 31 goals and 56 points in 60 games this season.
"I came in as a kid and left as a young man, physically, mentally, all areas," Larkin said. "They give you resources and it's up to the players how much you want to use them. I feel like I used them and became a well-rounded young man."
Larkin's coach agreed with that assessment.
"He's probably one of the best skaters we've had come through the program in a long time," U-18 coach Danton Cole told NHL.com. "But he's also diligent; he's interested in his defensive zone. He wants to be a Steve Yzerman-type player.
"He has the offense, can score and skate, but he's also learned the little subtleties needed to play the center position. He's taken an unbelievable mature approach; kind of an NHL-repertoire approach to practices and games. He's training to be really good at it and his progress has been great."
Larkin won a gold medal with the United States during the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 championship in Finland. He scored two goals and two assists in six games and finished plus-3.
Larkin was also an assistant captain for that team.
Wright was not only impressed with Larkin's skating but with his character, which was on display in that tournament.
"He separated his shoulder at the World Championships and you could tell, and he scores the game-winning goal," Wright said. "There's just a lot of things about him. Character and passion for me are a lot of things and not only does he have those things, he's a good hockey player.
"This kid just oozes character. He wills people into games. This could be one of your captains down the road."