By Ashley Scoby
Dylan Larkin couldn’t feel his toes.READ MORE: Michigan Matters: EV's Supercharging Impact Across Metro Detroit
That’s what he remembered, among the nerves, in the first moments of his NHL debut. Justin Abdelkader scored a hat trick in the Red Wings’ 4-0 season-opening win over the Maple Leafs, but it was almost an afterthought as 19-year-old Larkin and his too-tight shoelaces stole the show with his first career start, goal and assist.
“Yeah, for sure (I was nervous). When you’re coming out to the introduction and you’re just trying to focus not to fall, and then first shift, I tied my skates too tight and my toes – I wasn’t really feeling them,” Larkin said. “After that I kind of settled in and felt comfortable.
Detroit already had a 2-0 cushion in the second period when Larkin took possession, thanks to the first chunk of Abdelkader’s hat trick. Fans had been itching for the youngster to tally another point ever since he assisted on Abdelkader’s first goal, and Larkin obliged. He raced up the left flank and flipped the puck into the tiny window over Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier’s right shoulder into the back of the net. Bernier sat back on his haunches, knowing there wasn’t much he could have done.
“I took a quick look and I think the whole end knew I was gonna shoot,” Larkin said. “I had a lot of speed and I ripped it. I think he was cheating a little bit off his angle, but it worked out pretty well.”
Somewhere in the crowd, about 30 of Larkin’s family members threw their hands in the air and hailed the teenager. He had grown up in Michigan watching the Wings, and this was an extra-specific version of a childhood dream coming true.READ MORE: Son Fatally Shoots Mother While Driving On Woodward Near Royal Oak
“I think my mom was telling me they haven’t had all the family together since their wedding,” Larkin said. “It’s a big deal and I’m glad it worked out for everyone coming out.”
Larkin finished the game with the most shots on goal for the Red Wings (six). But the one he snuck in made history. If fans were whispering Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman’s name on their way out of the building, it wasn’t in reference to the name of the street where Joe Louis Arena sits. The comparisons had already started.
Larkin became the first teenager to score in his NHL debut for the Red Wings since Yzerman did so in 1983.
“I talked to him before the game and he’s pretty unflappable,” said Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, who was also making his NHL coaching debut on Friday. “He seems to be extremely mature as a young guy. … It’s a good first start for him.”
Earlier this week, it wasn’t even a sure thing that Larkin would make the Red Wings’ opening night roster. But now, the 19-year-old can move forward with two points under his belt. And next time around, he’ll know how tight to tie his skates’ laces.MORE NEWS: Wixom Man Charged In Shooting Death Of Father's Ex-Girlfriend
“To win 4-0 and score my first goal,” Larkin said. “I couldn’t have it any better.”