When the suspension of the NHL season occurred on March 12th of this year, there was one team already eliminated from playoff contention: the Detroit Red Wings. A full 23 points behind the 30th place Ottawa Senators with 11 games to go, the Wings struggled in almost every facet of the game for the entire season. However, there were a few players who showed great potential as contributors in the future. One player that comes to mind is Dylan Larkin.
The 23-year-old out of Waterford, Michigan looks poised to be given the captaincy next season. He signed a 5 year/$30.5 million contract in 2018 and looks to be a staple in Hockeytown for years to come. This article is going to look at the season that Dylan Larkin was having and will compare to his prior seasons. We will also look at the what the future holds for the former 15th overall pick.
How Larkin looked going into 2019-20
While Detroit fans knew 2019-20 was gonna be a rough season, they had high hopes for what Larkin would show. The man known as D-Boss had steadily improved each of his last 2 seasons. He led the team with a career high 47 assists and 63 points in 2017-18. He then followed that up with a career high 32 goals and 73 points in 2018-19. Larkin also led the team in shots taken both seasons, taking over from a declining and then retired Henrik Zetterberg.
But it was more than just his offensive stats that improved. Last season was his first one winning over 50% of his face-offs. He also had career highs in hits and takeaways. His defensive game improved to a level where he received votes for the Selke Trophy. Larkin also stepped into a leadership role as one of the four rotating assistant captains. He had by far the highest average time on ice of any forward for the Red Wings at 21:51 per game and only trailed Danny DeKeyser for the team lead.
Things were looking promising for Larkin going into the first season with Steve Yzerman as GM. Everyone in Detroit knew it would be a season of losing. It was his line with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi that gave Hockeytown something to look forward to this year. What did the future captain of the Red Wings show us in his fifth full season?
A rough start to the year
The Red Wings got off to an explosive start to the 2019-20 season. They surprisingly won three of their first four games, and Larkin had points in all four. The big story was his linemate Anthony Mantha who had four goals in the home opener against the Dallas Stars, but Larkin did have two assists on those goals. He had six points and it seemed the first line could carry the Wings to more wins than expected.
That’s where the positivity ends for both the Red Wings’ and Larkin’s first half of the season. He would go on to have just one point over the next seven games, all of which were losses for Detroit. Through the first half of the season, he managed just 25 points; well off the pace of his 2018-19 total.
Meanwhile, Mantha and Bertuzzi were on pace for career highs in goals and points. The acquisition of Robby Fabbri from St. Louis and the call up of prospect Filip Zadina led to some line changes. The first line was split up as the Red Wings attempted to have two lines who could consistently score instead of one. Then, on December 21st, Mantha left a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an injury that would hold him out for two months. And with this, Larkin finally got going.
A big bounce back
Once the second half of the season was underway, the Larkin that Red Wings fans know and love had returned. He had points in nine out of ten games heading into the All Star break. While Mantha was out for two months with a punctured lung, Larkin had 21 points in 25 games. He mainly played on a line with Fabbri and Bertuzzi and the group built good chemistry together.
His biggest performance of the season came on February 6th against the Buffalo Sabres. The Red Wings had the first game of a back-to-back on the road on national TV. Larkin had two first period goals including a beauty to beat the buzzer. The game would go to a shootout where he would score as well. The Red Wings would win 4-3 in the shootout ending a nine game losing streak. Larkin took eight of the team’s 21 shots and had 26:22 of ice time.
Before the shutdown, Larkin had a hot streak going as well. He had seven points in four games including a three point performance as the last place Red Wings defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-4 in a shootout. In a season that was long lost and just one loss away from clinching the worst record in the league, it was a big performance against a team that the Red Wings had struggled to beat in recent years.
Where does D-Boss go from here?
The up and down season for Larkin was at the highest it had been when it came to a screeching halt. When the season was suspended, he had taken over as the team’s leading scorer with 53 points in 71 games. After a first half where he struggled, he had 28 points in his last 30 games. His face-off percentage was slightly down but still won over 50%. His hits and takeaways were down, but he improved his blocked shots and giveaways.
The Red Wings see Dylan Larkin as an eventual face of the franchise if he’s not already there. Yzerman has declared that he will name a captain during the offseason, and all signs point to the 23-year-old finally claiming the “C”. The team will be dumping a lot of older players this year as some of Ken Holland’s bad contracts finally expire. The Red Wings also have a lot of draft picks stockpiled and some top level prospects in the system. When you have a lot of youth coming into a young team, you need a young leader to step up and take command. It appears D-Boss will do just that.
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