The Detroit Red Wings selected 6-5 center Michael Rasmussen with the 9th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago Friday night. Tom Gromak, Detroit News
Chicago — Michael Rasmussen had an inkling it would happen.
The big, 6-foot-5 center out of Vancouver had talked a lot with the Red Wings during the season, at the combine, and felt a good fit.
So, when it was the Red Wings’ turn to pick No. 9 overall Friday at the United Center, Rasmussen wasn’t surprised — he was hoping, actually — the Red Wings selected him.
“I talked to them quite a bit throughout the year, and my combine meeting with them went real well,” Rasmussen said in the crowded media room afterward, wearing his Red Wings sweater and cap. “We got to know each other real well.
“They asked me a lot about my family and whenever I can talk about my family it’s awesome. It’s not just about the hockey player, but the person as well.”
Rasmussen is a 200-pounder who makes his living around the net and can play with a bit of an edge when needed.
Many scouts feel he’s a prototype power forward, with an inclination to drive to the net, and should become a top-six forward in the NHL.
Tyler Wright, Red Wings' director of amateur scouting, felt Rasmussen’s size was a crucial factor.
“It’s huge,” Wright said of size in today’s game. “You have to come into a city like Chicago, like Nashville, go into Boston, go into Pittsburgh. We’re building this thing for the long haul and we think he’s going to be a huge piece of the puzzle going forward.”
Taylor Wright, Red Wings director of amateur scouting, talks about forward Michael Rasmussen. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Wright was impressed with Rasmussen’s character and maturity during a combine dinner with various prospects.
“This guy is all business,” Wright said. “He’s a very mature young man that lives, breathes and dies hockey. This is his life.
“Obviously character goes a long way with what we’re trying to build, but we want to be a harder team to play against and we want to get bigger down the middle and he kind of checked all of those boxes.”
In 50 games with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League last season Rasmussen scored 32 goals and had 23 assists. He also had 50 penalty minutes.
“One of my hopes was going to Detroit and I didn’t know I would be lucky enough for them to pick me,” Rasmussen said. “My combine meeting went really well and in my mind, it was a place I really wanted to go and it’s a dream come true.”
Some scouts feel there’s a natural Red Wings comparison to Rasmussen — former net-front presence extraordinaire, Tomas Holmstrom.
“Comparing me to that player, it’s pretty special,” Rasmussen said. “I used to watch him growing up. It’s awesome comparison for sure.”
Rasmussen, using his size and skill — scouts like the way he’s capable of finishing plays — scored 15 of those 32 goals on the power play.
Scouting services had plenty of positive things to say about Rasmussen’s ability around the net, his physical edge.
But his defensive awareness, and his skating, are areas that, like many young players, need to be improved.
Skating is definitely one area Rasmussen will put time in this summer.
“It’s obviously a big thing for me, being a big guy, it’s tough to get that bigger frame around,” Rasmussen said. “It’s something I work hard on during the summer, with my speed and skating coaches, and it’s something I pride myself on and have to try to improve on.”
Wright, though, is comfortable with Rasmussen’s skating.
“I have zero issues with his skating,” Wright said. “He’s a good skater. He’s a big man who is still developing and he’ll just continue to get stronger.”
Rasmussen admitted the 24 hours before the draft, and sitting and waiting for his name to be called Friday night, were anxious moments.
“It was for sure,” Rasmussen said when asked whether it was a restless night of sleeping. “Everyone is different but my mind was racing. But it was a good day, though.
“It’s cool (waiting to be drafted), it’s part of the process. I saw a few of my buddies go there pretty high, I’m happy for them, and I was just waiting for my name.”
Being from Vancouver, Rasmussen was a huge Canucks fan growing up, his family owning season tickets.
Rasmussen enjoyed watching Mats Sundin, another big power forward, and counts Sundin, Trevor Linden and the Sedin twins as his favorite players.
But now he’s a Red Wings fan through and through.
And Rasmussen wants to get there as fast as possible.
“My job is to make sure it’s tough (for the Red Wings to send him back) and my game all summer will be to work hard every day and improve,” Rasmussen said. “My goal is to play in the NHL and that’s the goal and dream and I want to do that as fast as I can.
“That’s a goal of mine.”
Round: 1 Pick: 9
Height: 6-foot-5 Weight: 200
Last season: Tri-City (Western Hockey League), 50 games, 32 goals, 23 assists, 55 points.
Scouting report: A big body who loves to play around the net and down low. Rasmussen has great size and isn’t afraid to hit, and scouts feel he does a nice job finishing plays. Some have compared him to Tomas Holmstrom. Has to improve his skating and defensive play.