Plymouth — It’s easy to spot Michael Rasmussen among the 20 players on the ice.
The Red squad, of the split roster for the Canadian junior national team, practiced on the Olympic sheet in USA Hockey Arena early Sunday, as part of the World Junior Summer Showcase.
Rasmussen was the big guy.
The Red Wings’ highest pick in the NHL Entry Draft in 27 years, Rasmussen, a 18-year-old forward from British Columbia, is 6-5, 220 pounds.
The defenseman Cal Foote, son of the retired Wings’ nemesis Adam Foote, of the Avalanche — came close. But Rasmussen is most of his head above the rest, and his shoulders are above some, too.
He is also the player who stood out for readily demonstrating in a puck possession drill that getting a black biscuit away from him is a demanding, mostly futile task. Rasmussen, seemingly by instinct, makes himself all size, shoulders and elbows to keep increasingly frenzied opponents away.
For an opponent, it often ended with the same frustration that results when, with his long reach, Rasmussen deftly extracts the puck from his check’s custody, when it is his turn to play defense. The question for the Red Wings is, in a few years, will Rasmussen fulfill the promise they see in him, as a top-six, power forward?
The first impression is that the teenager is consummately self-possessed, serious and seemingly ahead of his years in temperament.
The noise around the draft seems to have left him largely unaffected.
Rasmussen makes little point, rhetorically, of trying to assuage the doubts of others. Instead, he talks about his continuous intent to remain in the moment, mindful of his development.
Not much time for the noise, when trying to make the Red Wings roster is the task.
“For me, I try to keep my world small and kind of just lie low with my family and kind of hang out with those who matter and those who have been there a while,” Rasmussen said.
“For me, it’s just a dream come true, obviously.
“But I know there’s a lot of work to be done.”
As the season approaches, he says it is important to win a championship for the Tri-City Americans, charter members of the Western Hockey League, after their start in Calgary, Alberta, before moving in 1988 to Kennewick, in southeastern Washington.
“The year was good, until my injury, there,” he said, of a broken wrist that held him out of scrimmaging at the Wings development camp.
Limited to 50 WHL games, Rasmussen nearly doubled his goal total, scoring 32 compared to 18 in the previous season, when he played in 63 games.
He had 23 assists last season, and 25 in the previous one.
“I think, for me, it’s all about consistency; just working on the little details of my game,” he said.
“So, that’s something I want to focus on.”
In the five weeks since the Wings drafted him in the first round, ninth overall, it was observed that the selection came quicker than expected.
Critics stress that a preponderance of the big man’s goals have been on the power play.
But Rasmussen’s seems unflappable.
His anchored disposition is likely an attribute that encouraged his selection as captain of the Americans, next season.
“It’s a big honor,” he said, talking about some of the history of the WHL franchise.
“I’m just going to continue to be myself, and that’s what got me to that honor.”
Scouts are nearly unanimous in praising Rasmussen’s offensive skills in front of the net, but say his shot from away could use some work.
Some say he can play good defense. Others say not so much.
Rasmussen says his priorities are an overall burnishing of his game through further development of the skills he already has, and working diligently on his skating in preparation for a league, the NHL, which has sped up.
It takes some extra coaching, and Rasmussen is taking advantage of three of them this summer, near his home in Surrey, 25 miles from Vancouver.
“Definitely, for me being a big guy, it’s tougher to move around, out there,” Rasmussen said. “So, it’s something that I work on in the summer and definitely in the season, as well.
“I have a strength coach, speed coach, power-skating coach. So, yeah, kind of ‘all the above,’ there.”
He said he is looking forward to the Red Wings training camp, beginning Friday morning, Sept. 15, in Traverse City.
“I’m going to be myself,” Rasmussen said. “Off the ice, I’m going to be a humble, hard-working kid.
“I’m going to put my head down and work hard, and show them I want to play in the NHL, I want to play for the Red Wings and help them win.”
World Junior Summer Showcase
What: Top junior players from the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden are vying to make rosters for the World Junior Championship
When: Games Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
Where: USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Tickets: Call 734-453-8400 or visit usahockeyarena.com