Thomas Larkin is the first Italian in the KHL

Thomas Larkin is the first Italian in the KHL

25 Aug 2015Lucas Bradelj»
 

It is always special when players from smaller hockey nations take a step into the big hockey world. This time it is Italian national team defenceman Thomas Larkin, who has signed a contract with Medvescak Zagreb.

 
 
 
 

Larkin is in fact a man of firsts. Drafted in 2009 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the big defenceman made a name for himself as the first ever Italian-trained player to be picked at the NHL Entry Draft.

Born in London, England, his family moved to Varese, Italy, at a young age. He learned the basics of hockey in Italy, before moving overseas at age 15 to play for the Philips Exeter Academy. Graduating from Colgate University, where he served as team captain for two season, Larkin started his professional hockey career in the 2012/2013 season with the Springfield Falcons. In his first seven appearances in the American Hockey League, Larkin also scored his first goal on the professional level. Signing an entry-level-deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets also made him the first and so far only Italian-trained player to have got a paycheck from an NHL-franchise.

In the following seasons he would split time between the two Blue Jackets farm teams, playing 19 games for their AHL-affiliate in Springfield and 33 games for the Evansville Icemen in the ECHL.

During the 2014/2015 season Larkin got Top 6 ice time in Springfield, collecting 17 points in 62 games. 139 penalty minutes in 88 games in the AHL also prove that he can does not shy back from the dirty areas of the game. It would though not be enough for the Blue Jackets to offer him a new contract and the stay-at-home-defenceman he was seeking a return to Europe.

It seemed almost certain that he would sign a contract with the only Italian club in Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, the Bolzano Foxes. Medvescak Zagreb though offered him a try-out and he could debut in the pre-season game against Villach, convincing the Croatian management and coaching staff to give him a professional contract in Europe’s top league for the 2015/2016 season. This marks a milestone in Italian hockey as Larkin is now the first ever Italian-trained player in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Due to playing in North America, Larkin ‘skipped’ the international U20 level, but had represented Italy already at two Under-18 World Championships. Larkin debuted on the Italian national senior team as a student, representing the ‘Azzurri’ at the 2012 Division 1A World Championships and also scoring his first goal on the international level. Larkin developed into a key player on the Italian blue line, also participating in two Top Division tournaments in 2012 and 2014.

Though, on a quick side note, he is not the only Italian-trained player to have been drafted by an NHL team, as also Thomas DiPauli, student at the University of Notre Dame, grew up in the small town of Caldaro, Italy, before moving to the USA. DiPauli is though not eligible to play for Team Italy, since the Washington Capitals-prospect has already represented the United States on various international events.




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