OK to add MLB Line to list of fine Red Wings’ forward trios of the past

Published Oct. 6, 2019

It’s one of the most iconic photographs in Detroit sports history, and indeed in all of hockey history.

Three forwards, in their blood red sweaters with the winged wheel on their chest, in mid-skate, closely bunched, smiling and looking down at the ice at a puck of which they are fully controlling.

I have no idea how many takes it took to capture the image, but you know the one. Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay. The Production Line. A wonderful take on the car industry in the Motor City, as well as the offensive prowess of that legendary, Hall of Fame trio in the late-1940s, early-1950s.

One of my prized possessions is the photo, signed by all three Red Wings. You can have it, if you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

The Red Wings had another iteration of the Production Line in the late-1960s. Howe was still on the right wing, but center Alex Delvecchio and left wing Frank Mahovlich flanked no. 9. They were the Production Line II.

Great lines of the past

The history of NHL hockey is adorned with many forward lines who earned nicknames. There was the Bruins’ Kraut Line of the 1940s, so named because of the German ancestry of Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer.

The Rangers of the 1970s had the GAG (Goal a Game) line of Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert. The Sabres in that time had the French Connection (Rick Martin, Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert). And on and on.

The Red Wings of 1987-88 used an unusual combination of Gerard Gallant, Steve Yzerman and Bob Probert to march to the league’s semifinals—a season in which Yzerman scored 50 goals for the first time in his career and Probert had a career year, potting 29 goals (despite 398 penalty minutes!) and breaking Howe’s franchise record for points in one playoff year (21).

The famous forward lines have lost their zing as coaches in the league frequently shuffle wingers and centers like playing cards, often within the same game.

MLB line?

Image result for larkin mantha bertuzzi

Yet the Red Wings of today have a line that I doubt coach Jeff Blashill will fool around with too much.

In Saturday night’s 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in their season opener, the Red Wings’ trio of Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi terrorized the Preds, figuring in four of the five goals.

In their last nine games dating back to last season, that line has tallied an astounding 47 points. Incidentally, the Red Wings are 7-2 in those games.

Get used to this unbalanced scoring for the Winged Wheelers, at least for the near future. Mantha, Larkin and Bertuzzi (they need a nickname, by the way) are, without question, the Red Wings’ no. 1 line—the same way that of the Aaron brothers, Hank is the no. 1 home run hitter.

But that’s OK. The Red Wings are building something, and unlike their counterparts who kick around baseballs in Comerica Park, the hockey rebuild has definitive light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And it isn’t emanating from the equally proverbial oncoming train.

So while the other forwards—a mix of kids and veterans—get their sea legs and occasionally chip in a goal or two, the MLB line (working title) will be happy to be the dominant point producers.

“For us as a line, it’s huge,” Mantha said of the opening night onslaught of production. “We just right away come back to where we left off last year. It’s exactly what we wanted. This game just proves that we’re meant to be a first line together and hopefully we can stick around for the whole season.”

Are you listening, coach?

“They know how to play together,” Blashill said after Saturday’s game. “They kind of feed off each other. Dylan kind of drives the line with his energy. Bert is greasy, he’s skilled, he’s smart. And Mo has that great skill package. They’ve been a really good line together. They enjoy playing together and we’re going to need them to be great.” 

Other forwards must contribute

The Red Wings have other veteran forwards who, in their careers, have bobbed to the surface offensively with fine years. But most of those guys are well into their 30s. This is a full-on rebuild. The Frans Nielsens, Justin Abdelkaders, Darren Helmses and Val Filppulas likely won’t be in Detroit—or even active players—when GM Steve Yzerman’s project comes to fruition.

So it’s the MLB line or bust for now, on most nights. Veteran mucker Luke Glendening chipped in with a fine goal Saturday night as well, but make no mistake: the league will be filled with game plans for the Red Wings that pretty much will say, “Stop those no. 1 guys and we’ll take our chances with everyone else.”

The Predators, who accumulated 100 points last season and made the playoffs yet again, are considered one of the top teams in the West. But they had no answer for the MLB kids on Saturday. In fact, the Preds haven’t been able to figure out the Red Wings, period, lately. Saturday’s win was Detroit’s sixth straight in Nashville and the Preds are 1-10 against the Red Wings in their last 11 meetings. Go figure.

The chemistry of a successful forward line in hockey ought not to be underestimated. The game is so fast, so knowing the little things about your linemates such as where they like to position themselves in the attacking zone, how they like the puck to be served to them and so forth, is critical. There’s also a certain trust factor involved.

Mantha, after Saturday night’s first period, told Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson that the MLB line is having fun and really enjoys playing together. “We’re three different types of players,” Mantha said, but in hockey that’s considered a positive for a forward line. Opposites really do attract.

The rest of the league will design its defense to do what it can to shackle the MLB line. That’s a given. But if the Red Wings can find some semblance of offense from their myriad of other forwards, the rebuild could take a big stride this season. Andreas Athanasiou, he of 30 goals scored last season, didn’t play on Saturday, don’t forget.

One down, 81 to go. Since the MLB season was so unkind to Detroit fans in 2019, it’s only fair that those initials bring a ray of sunshine on the ice this winter, eh?

Red Wings should name Larkin captain sooner rather than later

Published Nov. 3, 2018

Stevie Yzerman wasn’t ready to be team captain.

Yzerman was all of 21 years old in September 1986 when Red Wings coach Jacques Demers, new on the job and taking over a moribund team (40 points the year before), named Yzerman his captain, succeeding the veteran Danny Gare.

Yzerman wasn’t ready. How could he be?

He had only three NHL seasons under his belt. He was shy, quiet and reserved. His body was still filling out and his overall game. He had just turned legal to drink a few months before the 1986 training camp.

Team captain? Not ready.

But Demers was desperate to find a spark. The Red Wings were awful and many were surprised that Jacques left a pretty promising situation in St. Louis to come to Detroit.

So Demers gave Yzerman the “C” and hoped for the best.

You can call Jacques Demers crazy like a fox today. 

Better to be lucky than good

They sewed the C on Yzerman’s sweater and there it stayed for 19 seasons. He became widely regarded as one of the best team captains—in any major professional sport. Ever.

But Demers himself would tell you that he had no way of portending the happy union between Yzerman and team captaincy. The roster that Jacques assumed in 1986 was so bereft of high octane NHL talent, and the crowds at Joe Louis Arena were so inconsistent, that there really wasn’t much to lose.

I remember driving to the Joe on several occasions during the 1985-86 season, on a whim after work, and walking up to the box office to purchase a lower bowl ticket for that evening’s game. Not too many other fans were seated around me. The Red Wings would go down to defeat, of course, and I would drive home, with no traffic impeding me on the way out of the parking garage. It was a polite outing.

Demers arrived and the Red Wings started making the playoffs again–ascending to the conference finals in Jacques’ first two seasons.

Yzerman led the way, on and off the ice—still with that quiet, reserved persona. Demers lucked into a great decision.

The case for Dylan Larkin

Image result for dylan larkin

There’s scuttlebutt that 22-year-old Dylan Larkin is earmarked for captaincy of today’s Red Wings, now that Henrik Zetterberg’s bad back necessitated that Z hang up his skates.

The situation is eerily similar to Yzerman’s back in 1986.

The team isn’t going anywhere—not this season, at least. 

The roster has some veterans but they represent the glory days of yesteryear: Niklas Kronwall, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm to name a few. Each of those players could wear the C. They’d be safe choices.

Demers had some veterans to choose from in 1986, as well. But they didn’t have the cache with the Red Wings franchise and they weren’t stewards of the future.

Despite the current, modest three-game winning streak, the Red Wings seem to have a vacuum in leadership. They’re poised for a new captain. After Zetterberg retired, the team decided to go with a bunch of alternate captains rather than give any player the C.

Larkin probably is about as ready to assume the captaincy as Yzerman was in 1986. Which is to say, he isn’t, by traditional metrics. He’s too young. His game is still a work in progress, though it’s progressing quite nicely.

But who’s the best player on the team? It’s Larkin, and it’s not close. And I see a certain je ne sais quoi in his body language on the ice. It is captain-like.

Dylan Larkin is about as close to being the face of the franchise as you can get right now. If you see that as an indictment, so be it. But it’s true.

The C is a big deal in Detroit

The C in Detroit is hallowed.

Alex Delvecchio’s tenure wasn’t filled with Stanley Cups, but that doesn’t mean that Fats wasn’t one of the best league captains during his 10-plus years.

Yzerman restored honor to the C after about a dozen years of the role being tarnished by bad teams and a revolving door approach.

Nick Lidstrom was Nick Lidstrom. Enough said.

Zetterberg was a fine captain, leading the team as it descended back to the pack and eventually below it. It wasn’t easy for Z to see the team denigrate on his watch.

Hockey fans know that being captain of the Red Wings isn’t like being the captain of just any other NHL team. With all due respect to the Arizona Coyotes.

If Larkin indeed is handed the C, it won’t be a small deal.

Dylan Larkin probably isn’t ready to be the captain of an NHL team. But yet, the timing is right for him to assume the role with the Red Wings.

Expectations for the team are low. The sports media in Detroit isn’t exactly the hardest-hitting in North America, so Larkin wouldn’t be walking into a pressure cooker after games. And again, he’s the best player on the team.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought that it was Abdelkader who would follow Zetterberg as captain. But Abby signed his big contract a few years ago and his game went down the tubes. My opinion.

Kronwall is on his way out. Helm, who will turn 32 in January, would be a not-bad choice. But the Red Wings don’t need “not bad.” They need a captain that could keep the C for years to come.

They need Dylan Larkin. Give him the role and let him grow into it.

It’s funny, really, that the same organization that gave a 21-year-old the C in 1986, has been reluctant to do the same with Larkin with the team in similar straits. The option to hand out a bunch of As instead of one C is only delaying what should be the inevitable.

Naming Larkin team captain now won’t make the Red Wings contenders this season. It’s not about that. 

But the team does need direction amidst the current rebuild. Why not have a young captain to go along with the young, wet-behind-the-ears players that are supposed to be the future?

Why not have Larkin lead the Manthas, Rasmussens and Cholowskis?

Give Larkin the C and be done with it. The sooner you let the kid start to grow into the role, the better off the organization will be—on and off the ice.

He’s probably not ready. But he’s as ready as he’ll ever be, and for today’s Red Wings, that’s good enough.

Dylan Larkin: The Red Wings’ best player, by default (for now)

May 4, 2016

Just seven months ago, the question was, should Dylan Larkin be included in the Red Wings’ opening night roster, or should he be sent to Grand Rapids for some more seasoning?

Today, we ask, when can he take over as being the team’s most elite player?

Let’s hope ASAP is among the choices.

It’s not a stretch to say that Larkin, the 19 year-old whirling dervish, is the team’s best player. Certainly he’s the most exciting.

It’s not a stretch because the ex-elite players on the Red Wings—Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk—are no longer that. Datsyuk, in fact, may no longer be a Red Wing at all, if he follows through on his threat to move back to Russia to play hockey next fall.

Zetterberg is still a good player, but he’s not elite. He has morphed into a second or third line guy—something usually not befitting a team captain, though I doubt he’d be demoted.

It’s not a stretch to suggest Larkin is no. 1 because the other forwards haven’t taken that next step from good to very good, let alone from very good to elite.

Justin Abdelkader, likely your next Red Wings captain, isn’t elite, though right now he might be the team’s most complete player—which isn’t the same as being elite.

It’s not hard to imagine the Red Wings as being Larkin’s team in the near future, even without the “C” on his sweater.

Larkin will soon be the kind of player that will be worth the price of admission. Right now, he’s at the price of a couple of beers, and trending upward. He had a shaky second half, but that wasn’t shocking. He still finished with 23 goals and 22 assists and led the team in plus/minus with a plus-11. Only one other Red Wing scored as many as 20 goals (Tomas Tatar, 21).

When the Red Wings move into shiny new Little Caesars Arena (I know, I know) in October of 2017, it would be nice to have a centerpiece on the roster. It would be even better to have a team capable of making a deep playoff run, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Because of a myriad of reasons, Larkin is now being asked, at least indirectly and not yet publicly, to be the Red Wings’ best player every night. He has no choice, because there’s no one else capable.

It’s so, so reminiscent of no. 19.

Stevie Yzerman, at age 19, was entering his second season with the Red Wings, and it wasn’t much longer after that, that Yzerman was anointed as being the team’s best player. At first it was by default, but then it became a no-brainer.

Right now, Larkin is the Red Wings’ best player, by default. Soon there won’t be anything defaulting about it.

This will be Larkin’s team, and the fortunes of it will turn as he turns. That’s not opinion.

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 17: Dylan Larkin #71of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 17, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Larkin’s first half was better than his second, but both halves were better than just about everyone else’s.

 

The task now for GM Ken Holland and his scouting staff—both amateur and pro—is to surround Larkin with the supporting cast the kid needs to lessen his burden.

The Red Wings’ core should be reduced to Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Abdelkader, Zetterberg (for now), Anthony Mantha, goalie Petr Mrazek and defensemen Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser.

Everyone else should be quite touchable, in trades and in cuts, if need be.

That’s a small core, granted, but I don’t see any other way to go about returning the Red Wings to their glory days.

In the meanwhile, Holland should try trades, an occasional low-profile free agent signing when money allows (no more big contracts for awhile) and continue to go to the draft well, which has served the team fairly decently in recent years.

It’s time now to stop waiting on the likes of Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan et al to break through as top end players. Trade ’em all, if you can.

Keep the aforementioned core and work from there.

As for Larkin, this plan clearly broadens the young man’s shoulders by proxy, but all Stanley Cup-worthy teams have superstars. The Red Wings are not going to claw their way to the chalice with second tier forwards and grinders and a mediocre blue line corps. The league’s playoffs may sometimes be quirky and unpredictable, but they’re not set up to allow a superstar-less team to win it all.

Again, that’s not opinion.

It can’t all be Larkin, of course. The defensemen badly need a marquee guy as well. Niklas Kronwall has frayed so much that his nickname ought to be The Shadow. His minus-21 is like a starting pitcher with an ERA of 5.43. Mike Green is OK but hardly elite.

Trading for or developing a true no. 1 defenseman is a necessary part of the rebuild. And yes, I used the r-word. Sue me.

Holland and his fellow front office suits won’t use the r-word, unless that r-word is “reboot” or “reload.”

It’s a rebuild because in a true reboot or reload, you’re keeping a majority of the roster and doing some tweaks, perhaps to replace stars who’ve left via free agency or who have retired.

In a reboot/reload, you have money to burn to go get another elite player.

This is a rebuild because the Red Wings only have a handful of players worth keeping. The others could be trade chips, if packaged the right way. So they still have some value, especially if packaged with prospects.

Whether Holland and company see the roster this way is the question that many Red Wings fans fear doesn’t have the answer that they would prefer.

But what simply can’t be up for debate is the notion that Dylan Larkin, already, before his 20th birthday, is the Red Wings’ best player.

For now, it’s by default.

But it won’t be that way for much longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Wings’ best player right now? It’s precocious rookie Larkin

The Red Wings’ best player wasn’t even born when Colorado’s Claude Lemieux rearranged Kris Draper’s face in the 1996 Western Conference Finals.

Let that sink in for a moment. I’ll wait.

It’s almost incomprehensible to think that, not even two months ago, there was hand-wringing over whether Dylan Larkin should be included on the Red Wings’ opening night roster.

Right now, Larkin is making this NHL thing look easy; forget what he might have done to the American Hockey League. They would have banned him, like a casino would with an expert card counter.

Larkin is the 19 year-old who on many nights is the best player on the ice for the Red Wings, who are riding his wave to the tune of a 7-0-3 streak in their past 10 games.

In NHL parlance, it’s a polite way of saying that a team is 7-3 in its last ten, but still, it’s a nice streak.

Larkin leads the league in plus/minus, and no matter what you think of that flawed statistic, whenever you lead the league in anything that’s deemed positive, it’s a good thing.

When you do so as a teenager, it’s even better.

Larkin, the kid from Waterford who last year was wearing Maize and Blue and a full face mask, continues to amaze with his hockey instincts, which belie his tender age.

If you didn’t know better, watching Larkin play, you’d think no.71 was a wily veteran.

His passes are threaded like a tailor. His game is awash with deftness. He glides around the ice as if he owns the rink. He has the confidence of a seasoned cat burglar.

And he’s 19.

Forget the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s Rookie of the Year—and which Larkin just might win next summer.

The kid might want to clear some space for a Hart Trophy. Or two.

The Hart goes to the league MVP, and no Red Wing has won that since Sergei Fedorov in 1994.

Four Stanley Cups have been won since then, but never have the Red Wings had a serious candidate for the Hart Trophy.

That has been a testament to the multitude of great hockey players that have passed through Detroit over the past two decades.

The Red Wings Way—and the path to that quartet of Cups—has never been to rely on one stud player. The Red Wings won by coming at you in waves. If they were a baseball team, their batting order would be lethal, one through nine.

Hence no league MVPs despite the overwhelming team success.

I’m not saying that Dylan Larkin is a no-brainer as an MVP candidate down the line, but he seems to already possess the ingredients.

He scores. He assists. He’s the best player on the ice on many nights. His hockey IQ is in the vicinity of genius.

And the Red Wings are, arguably, being led by him right now.

Larkin is tied for the team lead in points (21, with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar), but his plus-19 rating is 13 ahead of the next highest (Jonathan Ericsson).

Larkin leads the Red Wings in game-winning goals (3), even strength goals (11) and just plain goals (again, 11). His only weakness seems to be on the power play, where he hasn’t put the puck into the net—yet.

Larkin leads the team in shots on goal and, if they kept such a statistic, he would lead in Smiles Put on the Faces of Fans.

We’re not used to this in Detroit when it comes to our hockey.

The Red Wings have always been about grizzle, not peach fuzz.

On Opening Night, Larkin became the first teenager to crack the Red Wings roster out of training camp in 25 years.

He came out of the gate playing as if he’d been in the NHL for a decade: whip smart ice presence, composure, patience and guile, all beyond his years.

There’s also the physical gifts that Larkin possesses—and which you either have or you don’t—such as speed, power skating ability, and more upper body strength than I originally thought he had.

Some folks wonder if Larkin will hit the so-called rookie “wall,” because playing a truncated schedule in college is nothing like the 82-game grind of the NHL.

True, but Larkin is 19. He’ll never have more energy in his life than right now.

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 17: Dylan Larkin #71of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens  in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 17, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Larkin is one-third through what could be a Calder season.

The Red Wings, with the addition of Larkin to the mix, are continuing to shout down the naysayers who, a few years ago, thought this team was on a collision course with a mini-rebuild.

One of the naysayers is banging this out on his keyboard right now.

How foolish of us to doubt the Red Wings’ crack staff of procurers of personnel, who scavenge the Earth from Flin Flon to Omsk year-round, trying to find the next Pavel Datsyuk or even the next Joakim Andersson.

And just like that, the roster is filled with the likes of Tatar and Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan up front, and Danny DeKeyser, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith on the blue line—all to complement the veteran presence that is still very strong in the Winged Wheel.

And there’s Dylan Larkin.

The Red Wings are being led on many nights by a kid.

The entire NHL is being led by him, in the plus/minus category.

The question no longer is, Should Dylan Larkin make the Red Wings out of training camp?

It’s, Where would they be without him?

Larkin has chance to follow in Yzerman’s footsteps, some 32 years later

It was early in the rookie teenager’s first NHL season.

He was all of 18 years old, the age where high school graduation is either on the agenda or still a fresh memory.

Veteran Red Wings players dressed around him inside the Joe Louis Arena locker room, talking to reporters following a win, which was a lot more rare in those days than it is today.

Left wing sniper John Ogrodnick leaned back in front of his stall, his hands clasped around a knee, engaging the microphones and cameras after helping lead the team to victory on that October evening in 1983.

Thirty-five year-old defenseman Brad Park ambled up to a table and drew some water from a large cooler, a towel wrapped around his waist.

Other players milled about, laughing and teasing each other. Goalie Ed Mio, who got the win that night, rubbed mousse into his hair as he bantered with reporters and some joking teammates.

The mood was light. Players were tired, as they are after very game, but it was a good kind of tired. Victories will do that.

Covering the game as a cub reporter for the Michigan Daily,  I wedged myself between the cameramen and scribes. There was a moment when I tried to get out of someone’s way and took a couple of steps backward.

I stepped on someone’s foot.

I immediately turned around to apologize.

“It’s OK,” the voice of my victim said, barely above a whisper.

I recognized the youthful face, free of the stubble, scars and lines that pocked the mugs of his more veteran teammates.

It was that kid rookie with the funny last name.

WHY-zerman? EE-zer-man? Something like that.

I was done listening to Ogrodnick so I flipped the page of my notepad and decided to talk to the kid, mainly because nobody else was.

I asked a couple of questions, long since forgotten from the banks of my 52 year-old memory.

What I do remember, however, is that I had to strain to hear his answers. I also recall that he seemed almost embarrassed that I wanted to talk to him to begin with.

He was 18 and in his second week in the NHL.

Three years later I was directing Steve Yzerman in a TV commercial. I told him about our first encounter in 1983.

He smiled sheepishly.

“My dad always told me that the less you talk, the less people will realize that you have nothing to say,” he said, chuckling. Yzerman’s father had been a respected politician in Ottawa.

Yzerman, at that time, was the 21 year-old boy captain of the Red Wings, the youngest player to wear the “C” in franchise history. Coach Jacques Demers named Yzerman his captain not long after agreeing to coach the Red Wings in the summer of 1986.

For Demers, the move was a no-brainer, even though the roster was dotted with players much more steeped in NHL experience.

Cynics wondered when Demers would come to his senses and name a more veteran captain.

Yzerman remained captain until he hung up his skates in 2006.

No teenager has made the Red Wings roster out of training camp since Yzerman did it in 1983 as the fourth overall pick in that summer’s NHL draft.

That streak might come to an end.

dylan-larkin-9-24-15-229032becff65fff

Larkin is congratulated after scoring a goal against Pittsburgh this exhibition season

Dylan Larkin is 19 years old, can skate like the wind, has immense hockey sense and to hear observers tell it, the kid has ice vision so impressive that he must have eyes in the back of his head.

New Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is giving Larkin, the team’s first round pick (15th overall) in 2014, every chance to show off his mad hockey skills.

Blashill has been putting Larkin, a center, on a line with wingers Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader in recent exhibition games.

That’s not what you do if you’re thinking of sending Larkin to the minors to start the season.

And with fellow centers Pavel Datsyk and Darren Helm on the mend and not ready to be in the lineup for Opening Night next Friday, this just may be Larkin’s time. Already.

The thing about the NHL is that pretty much every front line forward in the league was, at some point in his hockey life, a dominating player, somewhere.

But not every player dominated his competition like Larkin has.

In 2013, the Waterford-born Larkin played 26 games for the United States National U-18 team. In those 26 games, he registered 17 goals and 9 assists. In 2014, his freshman year at the University of Michigan, he tallied 15 goals and 32 assists in 35 games. He also got his first taste of professional hockey, being sent to play with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins during their playoff last spring. In his six game sample, he scored three goals and two assists.

This exhibition season with the Red Wings, Larkin scored three goals in his first four games. One of them, in Pittsburgh, was a beauty.

Larkin used his blazing speed to beat the Penguins defenseman around the outside, then he swooped in on the goaltender and scored on the blocker side.

There’s also some great irony when it comes to Dylan Larkin—a direct connection to Yzerman, no less.

Larkin hails from Waterford, and when the Red Wings traipsed to the NHL draft in Montreal in 1983, they had their eye on another Waterford kid, Pat LaFontaine.

The fans wanted the local hero LaFontaine, also a center. Red Wings GM Jimmy Devellano wanted LaFontaine. Badly.

But three teams picked ahead of Detroit.

The first, the Minnesota North Stars, selected Brian Lawton. The second, the Hartford Whalers, picked Sylvain Turgeon. The New York Islanders, despite being the four-time defending Stanley Cup champions, held the third overall pick thanks to a trade.

The Islanders, Devellano’s old team, slugged their former executive in the gut by picking Pat LaFontaine.

So Jimmy D “settled” for Steve Yzerman, center for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.

So here’s Dylan Larkin, from Waterford, threatening to make the Red Wings roster out of training camp as a teenager, the first player to do so since Steve Yzerman, who the Red Wings settled for after the Waterford kid, Pat LaFontaine, was taken ahead of them in the 1983 draft.

Funny how things work out sometimes, eh?

Larkin, not as shy as Yzerman was (and still is), has made no bones about it. His intention is to make the Red Wings. Right now. He’s trying to avoid a bus ticket to Grand Rapids at all costs.

“It is what I have been waiting for and I’m ready for it,” Larkin said about playing in the NHL, sooner rather than later.

“I think I’ll be a dominant player all over the ice,” Larkin continued. “I’ll be a player than can play against the other team’s top line and can still produce offense. It might take a while, but it does for everyone to become a dominant player.”

You never heard Steve Yzerman talk about himself in that manner at age 19—and Yzerman never really did, not even after he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, for goodness sakes.

Coach Blashill is helping by letting the teenager show off his wares against other top-line NHL players in the pre-season matches, and Larkin has been responding.

GM Kenny Holland has said that there’s no rush in getting Larkin to the NHL.

But that was before training camp and the exhibition schedule began.

Sometimes if a kid has it, he has it. Sometimes there really is no need for him to play in the minors, where even at age 19 he would be a man among boys.

They talk a lot around Hockeytown about the Red Wings’ streak of 24 straight playoff appearances.

Here’s one streak that might come to an end: the 32 years between teenagers making the Red Wings out of training camp.