About a dozen times every season Darren Helm makes a play that seems to confuse time. He’ll poke the puck off a stick and then glide past three guys. He’ll take a pass in his own zone and seemingly teleport past the defense. He’ll make up 20 feet of ice in a race to a loose puck. Most of the time these plays lead to breakaways. On nine out of 10 of them, Helm won’t convert.
I often get a text or email from my dad when this happens. The message is always the same: Helm would be an All-Star if he could just learn how to finish.
On Friday the Red Wings drafted Dylan Larkin out of the U.S. NTDP with its first-round pick.
“Think of Darren Helm but with better scoring ability,” one of the draft commentators said on television immediately after Larkin was drafted. “He’s got that type of speed.”
Holy crap. Darren Helm with scoring ability? Imagine the plays he’s making against lesser competition. Imagine the goals he’s scoring. This guy had to have one hell of a YouTube presence.
He doesn’t. It actually might be the worst of the draft.
In fairness, I probably set the bar a little too high. Last year the Red Wings drafted the greatest YouTube prospect of all time. Anthony Mantha had a 24-minute highlight video with French announcers and small-time sponsors. (“Old Dutch. Quality Lives Here.” I’ll never forget that.) We’ll never each those heights again.
Still, Larkin isn’t even climbing the same mountain. This is his first highlight:
He forces the neutral zone turnover, glides in front of the net as the Czechs watch the puck, receives a behind the back pass from a teammate* and taps it in. It’s a smart play, a good hockey play, and it isn’t so bad on its own, except it’s one of just two highlights featuring Larkin as the star.
This is his other one:
Pure entertainment: High backhand, team rushes off the bench, goalie hangs head for a second and then realizes he can’t bear the shame, forcing him to briskly skates down the ice towards a locker room he can hide in.
It’s 14 seconds.
The vast majority of Dylan Larkin’s notable YouTube presence is contained in those 63 seconds.
The rest of the videos are him either giving monotone interviews or monotone talks to kids about groundbreaking stuff like working hard and making the best of your opportunities.
He’ll get better. He’s only 18 and he has some potential. This story about meeting Patrick Roy at the NHL Combine is legitimately funny:
Plus, he seems like a nice enough kid and just boring enough for NHL teams not to worry about that he’s going to say.
That’s win for them, but a loss for us.
We know nothing about him other than what people tell us. You can’t fall in love with a prospect just because Pierre McGuire said he’s a good pick. You do it while watching YouTube at 2 a.m. before your final or in the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday when you should be working.
Since we can’t with Larkin we need to hold off judgement, at least until he gets in the hands of a team that knows its way around highlight videos.
Until then, there are dozens of new Anthony Mantha videos to watch.
*(The kid who made the pass is Sonny Milano. He was taken by Columbus one pick after Detroit took Larkin.)