The Detroit Red Wings selected the big center Michael Rasmussen from the Tri-City Americans of the WHL 9th overall in the 2017 NHL draft. Going into the draft I wanted them to take the best player available, and, with many quality names still on the board such as Gabriel Vilardi and Martin Necas, my first impressions when Tyler Wright announced they had selected the Vancouver native were not pleasant. However disregarding the names that were still out there, Rasmussen is still an excellent prospect to have in the system.
What Does He Bring To the Table?
Rasmussen biggest strength is without a doubt his size and net front presence. Rasmussen has seen comparisons to former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom, due to their ability to disrupt the goaltender’s vision of the puck with great success. While Rasmussen does share this fearlessness to go to the front of the net like Homer, Rasmussen is about 6 inches taller and is a much better skater. I personally think New York Islanders winger Anders Lee is his best comparison as they both willingly go to the net and possess similar skill sets.
Rasmussen will need to work on his skating. While his skating is good enough to get the job done it does need improvement if he wishes to keep up with the pace in the NHL level. Not being the most high end skater has hurt his ability to control the play as a center, which has shown though his 5v5 production. At 5v5, Rasmussen’s numbers are alarming, with 29 of his 55 points (53%) coming on the powerplay which was the highest percentage of any player in the draft from the CHL.
Despite this, it should not diminish his skill set. For a big man he has nice smooth hands which he uses in tight around the net to find those loose pucks. It’s one thing to want to go to the dirty areas, it’s another to find success in those areas. You have to have a sense of where the puck is, and not only have the awareness to retrieve those pucks but have that competitive nature of wanting to out battle the defenders and jam the puck in and Rasmussen has those elements in his style of play. Rasmussen uses his combination of size, awareness, and competitiveness to be an effective player in front of the net.
What Is His Potential?
I can see Rasmussen becoming an effective second line center one day in the NHL. He does not have the elite skill level or hockey IQ that is needed in all 3 zones to be a top line center in the NHL but that shouldn’t stop him from doing what he does best, making life miserable for goalies, particularly on the powerplay. While we all hope his 5v5 production improves, his presence on the powerplay will be a huge advantage. I could envision having a lethal powerplay one day with Red Wings top defensive prospect Vili Saarijarvi blasting shots from the point on the net for Rasmussen to either deflect in or clean up juicy rebounds.
Rasmussen to me shows he has a desire to continue to get better and better and to eventually reach the NHL one day. Having a good work ethic will go a long way in helping him reach his potential. “That’s my goal this summer, to work and improve,” Rasmussen said, “To play in the NHL is obviously your goal and your dream. I want to be there as fast as I can.” Rasmussen obviously wants to be in the NHL at some point, but he knows there is much more work to be done for that to happen. If he keeps up that desire and continues to work hard there is a good chance he could be in the NHL sooner rather than later.
What Happens Next?
While no decisions have been made as to where Rasmussen will be playing next season, I would expect to see him playing for the Tri-City Americans again. With the Red Wings already having a cluttered roster and also wanting to make the playoffs next season, it’s very unlikely he will make the team unless he absolutely wows them at camp.
In terms of his NHL readiness, I would say he needs at least another year in the CHL. He has the hockey IQ to make it at the NHL level but his skating still needs work, and he hasn’t shown he can control the play, which you would want to see out of a center.
He’s got the size to make it but outside of that I wouldn’t say he has much else going for him in terms of making the NHL next season.
While I feel Detroit could have done better, Rasmussen is a fine additional to a prospect pool lacking in centers. With Detroit currently experimenting with Dylan Larkin at center and no guarantees that works out, as well as losing Tomas Nosek in the expansion draft, we are in desperate need of centers who can make a difference and play a key role on the team. Rasmussen has easily become our top center prospect, passing players like Axel Holmstrom, Christoffer Ehn, and Dominic Turgeon in our center prospect pool.