Red Wings: A deeper dive into Dylan Larkin’s excellent start to the season

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 15: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings reacts after scoring a goal during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on November 15, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 15: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings reacts after scoring a goal during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on November 15, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Red Wings captain, Dylan Larkin, is having a heck of a year. He currently leads the team in points, with 15 goals and 14 assists through 27 games. After a disappointing campaign in the 2020-21 season, Larkin is proving why he deserves that “C” on his chest.

What do the stats say?

Larkin is having an impressive rebound of a season, and the statistics prove it.

The easiest measuring stick for a forward in the NHL is points per game. Last year, Larkin averaged .52 points per game, with 23 in 44 games. This season, he’s averaging over a point per game, with 29 points in 27 games played. There are times where he can singlehandedly take over a game, showcased best in his four points performance against the New Jersey Devils, where he scored his first ever hat trick.

The deeper metrics show much of the same. Last year, his expected goals above replacement was just .3. His current xGAR for this season is 7. Similarly, his expected wins above replacement jumped from .1 to 1.2.

The only stats that don’t really illustrate the improvement are possession metrics, such as Corsi-for and Fenwick (both are just above 50 percent). However, because of how poorly the defense has played all season, nearly every player on the roster has bad/middling possession stats.

Fulfilling his role as the captain

Last year was Larkin’s first as captain of the Red Wings. As mentioned before, his first season with the “C” wasn’t too impressive on the ice, but circumstances considered (injuries, major trades, COVID-19), it was a perfectly acceptable performance. Also, while he didn’t rack up many points, he became a significantly better two-way forward, becoming a threat on the ice even without a puck on his stick.

With a steady and talented top line, Larkin is thriving as the number one center on the team. According to Moneypuck.com, the Bertuzzi-Larkin-Raymond line has the second highest expected goals for in the NHL (specifically for offensive lines, not including defensive pairings). The top line in Detroit is playing at an elite level this season, and the anchor is Dylan Larkin.

Much of the team’s improvement this season is due to the trifecta of stellar rookies (Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider and Alex Nedeljkovic), but Larkin is the backbone of this team. If Detroit manages to make a run to the playoffs, it’ll be driven by the three rookies and the team captain.

Larkin is starting to fulfill the expectations that come along with the captaincy in a franchise like the Red Wings. He’s going to be a key piece while this team transitions back to its winning ways.

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