Trading on a Lark(in)


Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Larkin is not an afterthought to dynasty hockey owners.  On the contrary, Larkin is recognized as a young star in the making.  Detroit’s new top line, top power play Center is 22 and was just named an Alternate Captain (for home games, because apparently his leadership only fully manifests under threat of octopus showers.)

Larkin’s role expanded in his third NHL season.  He was 25th in the NHL among forwards in penalty kill minutes in 2017-18.  There weren’t a lot of first liner centers in the top 25 — pretty much Larkin and Anze Kopitar. (As a fun note, four Red Wings — Riley Sheehan, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening and Larkin — were in the top 25 in forward PK minutes for the year. Those two minutes of a game on the kill made up half the jump from 16:09 ATOI in 2016-17 to 19:51 last year.

The first years of Larkin’s career have seen an interesting set of developments.  As he has transitioned from splitting minutes between wing and center to becoming the top-line center.  His points nearly doubled from 32 in 2016-17 to 63 in 2017-18 while his shooting percentage dropped from 9.6% to 6.9%.  In fact, even as his points have increased, his goals scored have dropped for two straight years.  Micah Blake McCurdy shows in his WOWY charts that the two best forward pairings on Detroit combining offense and defense were Larkin/Anthony Mantha and Larkin/Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin is a sneaky contributor in hits with 65, 67, and 76 in his first three NHL seasons.  If your league counts faceoff wins, Larkin has gone from a liability to break-even as his percentages have been 41%, 45.1% and 49.9% in three seasons.  Like other players I’ve profiled in this space, he had a 47.88% offensive zone start percentage.

In the first game of the year, Larkin assisted on both Red Wings goals and played minutes at 5 on 5, 4 on 4, the power play and the penalty kill.  He’s settling into a role as the Wings’ first line Center and there is no particular reason to think he won’t stay a top contributor for the team until the next good Red Wings squad.  The question will be whether that role will have enough of an impact for your fantasy team to invest heavily in him as a top starter on your roster.

Yahoo rated Larkin the #107 player in the preseason, which seems to be in the right range.  I had him 88 or 130 in two different preseason  projects based on different points settings. Getting back wing eligibility would transform him into a lock as a top-100 player, even if only for as long as he could maintain that eligibility.  If I owned Larkin, especially in dynasty, I’d be trying to see if I could leverage his age and trajectory into getting a top D-man or decent winger.  If he only qualifies as a Center going forward, the perception may well outstrip the reality.



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