Red Wings Prospects: Dylan Larkin The New Number One


After being drafted 20th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, Anthony Mantha became one of the most talked about prospects to enter the Detroit system in quite some time. Mantha, who comes from the famous Pronovost hockey family, had Red Wings fans salivating with the staggering numbers he put up during his time in the QMJHL.  He was the top dog as far as Red Wings prospects were concerned.

Between 2010-2014 Anthony tallied 129 goals and 131 assists in 189 regular-season games played with the Val d’Or Foreurs. In the 2013-14 season alone, Mantha put up 57 goals and 63 assists in 57 regular-season games before leading the Foreurs to winning the Presidents Trophy and being named league MVP and CHL Player of the Year. Combine those numbers with a 6’4″ and 210 lb body, Anthony Mantha appeared to be the total hockey package.

I will admit that I was one of the many Wing Nuts who was drunk on the Mantha punch and couldn’t wait to see Anthony wearing the winged wheel. After fracturing his right tibia during the Prospect Tournament in Traverse City in 2014, Mantha and his supporters would have to wait a little longer to see what he could do in the big leagues.

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Finally in November 2014, Mantha got the green-light to play for the Griffins, becoming the second-highest Detroit draft pick to play for Grand Rapids behind Jakub Kindl. In 62 regular-season games with the Griffins Mantha had 15 goals and 18 assists. Not exactly the type of numbers Detroit hockey fans were expecting.

So when Detroit’s Senior Vice President Jim Devellano came out earlier this month and described Mantha as “Very, very, very disappointing.” it was quite the reality check for all those who had such high hopes for the supposed next great Red Wing. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press recently added fuel to the fire by describing Anthony as  “at times looking like he isn’t trying hard enough.” Not good signs, but also not the end of the world.

Enter Dylan Larkin.

With their 15th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft the Red Wings selected 18-year-old Waterford, Michigan native Dylan Larkin.  The initial reports on the 6-foot, 172-pound Larkin, was that he was a good play-maker with speed comparable to Darren Helm.

So you’re telling me he’s Darren Helm with a better scoring-touch? You have my attention.

Dylan made a name for himself playing for the U.S. National Under-18 Team in 2013-14, where in 26 games played, he tallied 17 goals and 9 assists. Also in 2014, Larkin helped lead the US Under-18 team to a gold medal victory in the IIHF Under-18 World Championships.

After achieving success in both the junior and national levels, Dylan stayed true to his Michigan roots and began his collegiate hockey career playing for coach Red Berenson at the University of Michigan. To say that Larkin’s rookie-season at Michigan was impressive would be an understatement.

Dylan averaged 1.43 points-per-game, which would be the best points-per-game average in 60 years put-up by a Michigan freshman. Larkin also lead all freshman with 4.41 shots-per-game, was named National Rookie of the Month, became the first Wolverine to reach 40 points since 2007, and ranked 11th nationally in scoring, second among freshman only behind Jack Eichel.

So after a great showing as a freshman, everyone wondered if Larkin would continue his hockey career at Michigan or take the next step and graduate to the professional level. On May 21st, 2015 Dylan answered the question by agreeing to a three-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings and foregoing his final three years of eligibility at Michigan.

After signing an amateur tryout, Dylan was able to immediately suit up for the Grand Rapids Griffins as they began their Western Conference Finals series of the AHL Playoffs. In the first 5 games of the series Dylan continued his momentum and wasted no time scoring 5 points.

Which brings us to the question, can Dylan Larkin steal Anthony Mantha’s thunder as the Red Wings’ top prospect?

It’s very easy to speak and think highly of Larkin due to his much more consistent and continued success as he climbs the professional ladder in the Detroit organization. One year ago, it would have been much easier to dote on Mantha’s success and potential. But any philosopher or motivator will tell you to not live in the past but rather stay focused on the present.

This is not to say that Anthony Mantha does not have a bright future as a professional hockey player in the NHL. During his time in the QMJHL, Mantha was a man amongst boys as far as physical stature goes, which most definitely helped him become an offensive powerhouse. As Anthony continues to play with the Griffins he must learn to adapt and change his game to find success at the professional level.

Obviously coming off of an injury as severe as a broken Tibia can hinder a player’s overall game, but if you combine the injury with all the hype and possible ego that Mantha may or may not have acquired, it’s the perfect recipe for a huge reality check.

Larkin on the other hand, has by all accounts remained grounded and humbled in his ascension of the hockey world. Perhaps Dylan’s path,work-ethic, and/or personality has allowed him to succeed more quickly than Mantha. In any professional sport there are players whose mindset has allowed them to have the

x-factor that makes them standout amongst their peers.

Let me finish by saying that I do not know Larkin or Mantha on any type of personal level, nor do I have any insight into either player’s work-ethic on or off the ice. This is merely a comparison of numbers and information I have gathered in my research.

I hope that Anthony Mantha finds his game and develops into the player the Detroit Red Wings thought he could be when they drafted him. As for Larkin, I hope he continues doing what he is currently doing.

Next: Mike Babcock And His Break-Up With The Detroit Red Wings

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