Red Wings' Dylan Larkin still 'figuring out the league'
Detroit GM Holland believes in youngster despite tepid production
This is the latest in our weekly series tracking the emerging stars who played for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. We've also checked in on Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Colton Parayko, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Scheifele and the Young Guns' goalies.
While Larkin's six goals through 22 games leads the Red Wings, the 20-year-old forward had just seven points. In his past 11 games the Waterford, Mich., native has two goals and was pointless in nine games.
For a kid who managed 23 goals and 45 points as a 19-year-old rookie, Larkin's lack of production was a bit surprising. To everyone but Holland.
"Dylan got off to a great start to his NHL career and then the league kicked in," Holland says. "Whenever you see a young player start to play good you'll see the league start to make adjustments and it gets harder to produce offence."
Holland says preparation for games by NHL coaching staffs is at an all-time high. Young players especially, Holland says, find they need to make adjustments to their game.
"Coaches do videos and X's and O's and they watch the three previous games," Holland says. "They look at the line combinations and who's doing what. When you are a kid you're not on the clips, but as you start to have success all of a sudden the other coach has clips showing what you do.
"People notice Dylan skates fast so they back off or they stand him up. Then it's up to the young players to adjust. Dylan is figuring out the league as the league is figuring him out."
'Big motor' in Motor City
Larkin was a member of Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He had two assists in a pre-tournament 7-4 win over Team Europe and then had an assist in the tournament-opening 4-1 victory against Finland. He was held off the sheet in a 4-3 loss against Russia in Game 2 and did not dress for Game 3, a 4-3 overtime loss to Sweden.
Holland hoped Larkin's participation in the World Cup would be a springboard for a productive second season in the NHL.
The GM says the plan was to play Larkin at centre after he spent last season patrolling left wing on a line with veteran pivot Henrik Zetterberg. After starting the year with no goals through six games, Larkin was moved back to the wing. In recent games, though, he is back in the middle skating on a line with veterans Tomas Vanek and Gustav Nyquist.
"Our whole team has struggled to produce offence," Holland says. "We thought we were going to produce a little more offence with the signing of Vanek, with the signing of Frans Nielsen, with the added experience for Larson. We have lots of people here that haven't produced at the level they have in the past."
After making the playoffs in each of the past 26 seasons, the Red Wings sit 14th in the 16-team Eastern Conference, having allowed 13 more goals than they have scored. It will be a huge challenge for them to make the post-season this year.
Nevertheless, Holland sees a bright future in terms of production and leadership for Larkin.
"I'm not worried," Holland says. "What he has is a big motor… a big engine. He comes to practice every day and loves to play hockey. It's not a job, it's what he loves to do. It's a passion. He's always pushing — every day in practice and every day in the game.
He's a talented young man who is a big part of our future. He had a lot of success early and now he's figuring out what adjustments he has to make."