Welcome to the third installment chronicling the Detroit Red Wings pursuit of having high quality centers for the future to help make up for the loss of Calle Jankrok, who was traded at the trade deadline of the 2014 season for David Legwand. In the first installment Axel Holmstrom and Alexander Kadeykin were featured, the second installment covered Tomas Nosek and Mattias Janmark. This installment will feature 2012 draft pick Andreas Athanasiou and 2014 draft pick Dylan Larkin and how they can help fill the void in the prospect pool left in the wake of those events.
Athanasiou was selected in the 2012 draft in the fourth round and is the only player on the list who is also listed as a winger. He was originally projected to go anywhere in the first round after 15th selection but slide all the way to the 110th pick where the Red Wings happily snagged him. He posses elite NHL skating and amazing stick handling skills. Andreas has great size at 6’2 200lbs and is not afraid to drop the gloves. RedWIngsCentral.com had this to say about Athanasiou:
“Elite NHL skating ability with acceleration and incredible top gear … Loves using his speed to drive wide and can flat-out beat defenders with his feet … Also beats defenders with his stickhandling, creativity and deft 1-on-1 moves … Scores beautiful, highlight-reel goals … High-percentage shootout shooter … Underrated playmaking ability … Huge threat on the penalty kill … Can play both center and left wing, preferring center but playing the majority of his junior career on the wing.”
After being traded to the Barrie Colts from the London Knights Athanasiou rose in the ranks of OHL forwards. Scoring 49 goals 46 assists fpr 95 points in 66 games in 2014. He joined grand Rapids for the Calder Cup playoffs and impressed Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill who played him extensively, for a rookie, in his short time in GR. He still can work on his two-way game, but saw a lot of time on the penalty kill in Barrie. His ability to play both center and wing could be huge if paired with a natural center or center capable winger in helping the Red Wings win faceoffs and control the puck more.
Comparison: Athanasiou has Jarnkrok beat in just about every category; he shoots more, he has size and strength by a wide margin, has great hands and finally his two-way play is outstanding for a rookie. Jarnkrok is the better passer of the two and is more of a finesse skater but the difference is marginal when you realize that Athanasiou is carrying 20 more pounds of muscle with each stride at high-end speed. The one real issue for Athanasiou, this really won’t hurt his chances of making the NHL, is that Jarnkrok is a natural 100% of the time center where Athanasiou prefers center but was often used on the wing. Given his utility as a winger who can fill in at center it is unlikely, but not impossible, that Athanasiou will see a full-time role as a center right off the bat. He can still be used as a full-time center but I imagine him playing as a wing for now. Filling in on faceoffs when a center gets kicked out or during periods of injury.
Dylan Larkin was drafted by Detroit 15th overall, the highest pick since Martin Lapointe in 90-91′, in the 2014 draft. Larkin has speed to burn with offensive upside to go with it. While his scoring touch is good his two-way game and ability to cause havoc on the fore check are his calling cards. His attention to detail in his own end make him an ideal forward any coach would love to have. He recently participated in the Red Wings development camp, playing alongside Anthony Mantha, and just wrapped up a stint with the U-20 USA development team. RedWingsCentral.com had this to say about Larkin:
“It’s going to take a year or two to see how much offensive upside Larkin has, but he projects as a second- or third-line forward who can contribute in all facets of the game. He’s headed to the University of Michigan to play for veteran head coach Red Berensen and the Red Wings have until 2018 to sign him.”
While many scouts and pundits have compared him to Darren Helm, his ability to put the puck in the net and his outs standing character and leadership set him apart, even earning praise from Pierre McGuire of NBC prompting him to claim “He’ll be captain in the NHL one day” when he was announced as the 15th pick for the Red Wings. Honestly, and this is a personal opinion, he reminds me more of a Patrice Bergeron or Ryan Kesler then Darren Helm. Larkin is a sure-fire NHL player. How far he climbs will be up to him and how he develops at the U of M under a phenomenal coach in Red Berenson. For the Detroit Red Wings there could not have been a more ideal situation given the Wings current depth at center and the need for a high-end prospect to be ready in three to four years. Larkin is poised to be a big part of the Red Wings Future at center for years to come.
Comparison: Larkin posses better speed and far more grit then Jarnkrok. His skills and hockey sense in his own zone and the neutral zone allow him to generate offense from what should have been opportunities for his opponents. While he lacks Jarnkroks vision on the ice and is a few notches behind in the offensive category(for now) Larkin can still distribute the puck to teammates or the back of the net. If he can do both more frequently while playing the tough minutes against opponents top lines then the Wings have found a more than ample replacement for Jarnkrok. A center that can put up points and drive posession that also has the smarts and abilities to keep opponents at bay in his own end is a truly valuable commodity in today’s NHL. The biggest issues now for Larkin are what kind of player he can develop into and how long is that going to take?
Honorable Mentions: Luis Marc Aubury, Hampus Melen, Landon Ferraro, Dominic Turgeon, Christopher Ehn.
While time will tell if one of these prospects will emerge as a premier talent, Detroit did will drafting and acquiring these players to help soften the blow of trading Jarnkrok. It may be some time, years in some cases, before any of the prospects makes the Detroit Red Wings, but one thing is for certain, that the Red Wings will have plenty of options over the next several when the need for new centers eventually arises.
Thanks for Reading.
*all stats and quotes used in this article come from RedWingsCentral.com. A fantastic site for Red Wings prospect information past and present.