Detroit — Michael Rasmussen hears the expectations.
Rasmussen knows about Red Wings’ fans expecting the 6-foot-6 forward will be in the Opening Night lineup, and how they feel he should make an immediate impact on a non-playoff team the last two years.
Never mind that he’s only played a few NHL exhibition games, is only 19 years old, and hasn’t even played minor pro hockey.
It doesn’t matter. Fans expect Rasmussen — last year’s Filip Zadina, a much prized 1st-round draft pick — to be a savior, of sort.
But, in his quiet, laser-focused ways, Rasmussen doesn’t mind the sky-high expectations. Actually, he seems to have the same type for himself.
“For sure there’s definitely high expectations on myself,” said Rasmussen after Thursday’s development camp workout at Little Caesars Arena. “The highest ones come from me. I put a lot of pressure on myself — to come here, and perform and play well, and come here and help the team win and just be a good teammate.
“I try to stay even keel. I’m just trying to focus on myself and try to get better every day. Come in, work hard, and be a good teammate.”
It will be almost shocking if Rasmussen, a towering, 221-pound center-wing isn’t in the NHL in October.
Despite a wrist injury that required surgery, Rasmussen had 59 points (31 goals, 28 assists) in 47 games with Tri-City in the Western Hockey League.
Rasmussen then exploded — dominated, really — in the playoffs, with a staggering 16 goals and 17 assists (33 points) in only 14 games.
Talking about Rasmussen late last season, coach Jeff Blashill was already musing about what a player with Rasmussen’s size and skills could do to help the Wings.
“He’s a big body who can really add a different versatility,” Blashill said. “A unique player. Guys that are his size with his skill set, are unique to this league.
“Come next fall, I’m hoping he’s pushing hard to make the team.”
Rasmussen gave the Wings plenty to think about during last year’s training camp, lasting until the final days of cuts, and not looking out of place in any aspect.
He believes the confidence he gained during those several weeks will help him heading into this season.
“Whenever you play well, it’s good and positive, whether it’s camp or season,” Rasmussen said. “You always want to play and perform well.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never played at that level. All the guys are really big and fast, they’re grown men, and you just have to play a little bit faster. Being a big guy myself, it was an adjustment, but overall, it was a good experience for me.”
Rasmussen is determined to be in the NHL this season.
Getting the wrist worked on gave him peace of mind, and enabled him to settle into a dominant closing stretch of his junior career.
There are no health concerns, no gnawing concerns.
“I had the surgery on the wrist in December, and obviously it was a tough-go for a bit, the first part of my season,” Rasmussen said. “After that, I felt good and we had a good run in the playoffs, and overall it was a positive year for sure.
“The wrist was definitely a lingering thing. It was pretty bothersome. We decided to just get it worked on and it kind of it went from there, it was good.”
Rasmussen said there’s no issue with the wrist, and his playoff performance showed it.
“It was good, our whole team, as a group, brought our game up and kind of elevated our play, and it was a good playoffs,” Rasmussen said. “It ended a bit early (conference finals) but it was a good overall experience.”
Rasmussen was scheduled to join Grand Rapids on its run in the American League playoffs, but the Griffins were eliminated in the first round.
To help alleviate the transition to the NHL, Blashill is expected to play Rasmussen on the wing — just as Dylan Larkin did upon Larkin’s NHL arrival — to ease the responsibilities and burdens for a 19-year-old.
Rasmussen, who split time between the two positions at Tri-City, is fine with that idea.
“I’ve played half and half (wing and center) my whole career,” Rasmussen said. “Definitely it’s different roles, and different responsibilities. But I enjoy both positions. You have to vary your game with both.”