DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told Dylan Larkin he would be in good spot at the University of Michigan under the watchful eye of Red Berenson.
After that the Waterford native can focus on cracking the Wings’ lineup.
“This is the place I wanted to be,” said Larkin, who was taken 15th overall Friday by Detroit in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. “I’m happy with the result.”
Larkin, who’s enrolled at the University of Michigan this Fall, was the second-line center at the U.S. National Team Development Program and finished fourth in scoring with 31 goals and 25 assists in 60 games.
“I’m looking to improve on my strength,” said Larkin, who was drafted by Erie in the 2012 Ontario Hockey League. “To play at the next level, even in college, you’ve got to be strong. It’s important to get in the gym and spend time on my body and nutrition.
“School has always been important to my family,” Larkin continued. “There were other college options, even Michigan coaches said go around to different campuses, see what you like. You got to find what fits for you.”
Larkin is considered more of a shooter than a passer and has a potent slap shot.
He’s also a strong technical skater that can build up speed quick and isn’t afraid to go hard to the net.
“I think I play all 200-feet on the ice,” Larkin said. “I’m a strong skater. I get around the ice well because of my skating. I think the game, I go to areas most people don’t want to go to score goals and find a way to produce.”
Larkin is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds.
“I came in as a kid and left as a young man, physically, mentally, all areas,” Larkin said of his time in the U.S. development program that’s located in Ann Arbor. “They give you resources and it’s up to the players how much you want to use them. I feel like I used them and became a well-rounded young man.”
The Wings’ organization is in desperate need of centers.
After Calle Jarnkrok was included as part of the deal to land David Legwand prior to the trade deadline it depleted Detroit’s depth chart up the middle. The top centers in the organization are Landon Ferraro, who is out of AHL options, Andreas Athanasiou and Mattias Janmark.
“I was open-minded but in the bottom of my heart I really wanted to be in Detroit,” Larkin said. “They’ve got the new rink they’re building. It’s going to be an exciting time for the organization.”
The Wings are a little deeper at forward with Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen, Martin Frk, Mitch Callahan, Zach Nastasiuk and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Larkin was an assistant captain on Team USA’s gold-medal winning club at this year’s Under-18 World Championship, scoring two goals and two assists, including a goal in the championship game.
He also won a bronze medal with the U.S. at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The Wings have seven picks in this year’s draft, which concludes with round two through seven Saturday.
They traded their second round pick this year to obtain Legwand from Nashville.
Detroit does have two picks in the seventh round, one of which came from San Jose as part of the Brad Stuart trade two seasons ago.
The Wings’ selection was their highest since choosing Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick in 1991.
Larkin’s favorite player growing up was Steve Yzerman.
“The way he led his team,” Larkin said of the former Wings captain. “He played a two-way game. Off the ice, the way he acted, he was a true professional, a class guy.”
It’s the sixth consecutive year Detroit has taking a forward with its top pick in the draft.