The rapid pace Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Larkin are scoring goals, gathering assists and, subsequently, the Red Wings racking up points, begs the question:
Has the ceiling of both been vastly underestimated?
Indisputable is that DeBrincat and Larkin are very good NHL players. Each is a genuine top liner, and as a result handsomely paid.
DeBrincat scoring a high-volume of goals isn’t exactly new. He’s already posted two 40-goal plus seasons. Larkin has been roughly a point-per-game scorer the last two seasons, and has notched more than 30 goals three times. At 25 and 27 years of age, DeBrincat and Larkin are in their prime.
But neither player is considered elite. DeBrincat and Larkin were not on the Top 50 players list in The Hockey News preseason yearbook. Neither was budding star defenseman Moritz Seider. A Top 40 player ranking by eliteprospects.com this month didn’t mention any Red Wings, either.
ESPN recently posted a Top 100 ranking. Larkin is 54th, DeBrincat 66th and Seider 78th.
Yet, Larkin and DeBrincat have quickly developed rare chemistry, and are near the top of the NHL scoring leaders. Seider’s puck possession metrics and plus minus aren’t good, but he has seven points in seven games. Seider’s upside is obvious and his ceiling is regarded as less known. He is just 22.
Seven games is a small sample size, but it may be a signal Larkin and DeBrincat are underrated.
The most recent multiple Stanley Cup champions have essentially been driven by a Big Three, two forwards and a defenseman.
The Lightning had Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kutcherov and Victor Hedman, the Penguins Sidney Crosby, Evengi Malikin and Kris Letang. The Blackhawks featured Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. It’s a formula very familiar to Detroiters. Nicklas Lidstrom anchored the defense for two separate Red Wings’ Stanley Cup-winning eras with premier forwards, first Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, and later Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
There are many standout duos of NHL forwards. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and Toronto’s Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, are prime examples. Perception is Larkin and DeBrincat belong in a second tier.
It would undoubtedly accelerate the Red Wings’ rebuild if reality is more like what we’ve seen early this season, especially considering Seider is just scratching the surface of his potential along the blue line.
It’s been a revelation. Do the Red Wings have their Big Three and on their way?
It is the most promising aspect of a terrific start to the ’23-24 campaign.