Michael Rasmussen was the Red Wings first top-10 pick in over 20 years. That was always going to come with a lot of expectations, some that shouldn’t have to be shouldered by a young kid. Unfortunately for Rasmussen, he was victim to a silly CHL rule that left the Red Wings with limited options for his development this year – either he played in the NHL or returned to the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.
At 19-years-old, the ideal spot for Rasmussen to play would have been the AHL. Junior to pro is a huge jump and most first round picks require a year or two in the AHL to adapt. That wasn’t an option for Rasmussen and, depending on how you look at it, it could have been a setback in his development.
Here’s why I think Rasmussen’s jump to the NHL could have been detrimental for him: the Red Wings were never going to be a good team this year. Some models projected them finishing dead last. For a 19-year-old shouldering the weight of being a top-10 overall pick, a clear symbol of the upcoming rebuild, trudging his way through a losing season is not ideal.
For one, there’s the on-ice product which clearly struggled according to Evolving-Wild’s RAPM chart. Rasmussen got very, very little time in the top-6, so the quality of his linemates didn’t do him any favors. His even strength metrics are all negative, meaning there weren’t many scoring chances generated or goals scored while he was on the ice.
The power play portion of this chart is what’s most disappointing, though. When he was drafted, Rasmussen was touted as a big body who would be ideal as a net front presence with the man advantage. He was given that opportunity throughout the season, but failed to truly take advantage of it. He just didn’t have the strength to own the net-front like the best of then do.
I’m not too concerned about it, though. He’s still young and he needs to bulk up a bit. Once he does, he’ll be a great NHL player. He just needs a little more time and experience. He’ll get there.
It took Rasmussen 10 games to score his first NHL goal and there weren’t many that followed. For a rookie with his skill set, though, eight goals and 18 points is a modest start. On a better team with better teammates, he’d obviously have a better stat line, but it’s unreasonable to expect Rasmussen to do it all on his own.
Rasmussen’s advanced stat line is a bit better than a lot of his veteran teammates, but on the whole it’s still bad. That being said, I think this moreso reflects the quality of the team than it does Rasmussen himself.
As this team trends upwards, so will Rasmussen, but that’s still a few seasons out.
This is a tough one to predict. Rasmussen is still young for an NHL player. Despite having a full season under his belt, it may not be a bad idea to start him in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He struggled this year and it likely hurt his confidence. Starting in the AHL would give him important minutes and allow him to pad his stats, building his confidence and fine tuning his skills.
The Red Wings have a slew of bottom-6 forwards under contract that they don’t necessarily need Rasmussen to fill a spot. They also have plenty of time left in their rebuild that they don’t need him to be at his full potential yet.
If it were me, I’d let him stew a little longer, get strong, and get more confident, before calling him up mid-season for another go at the NHL.