Rasmussen focused on turning Wings into winners
Detroit — It wasn’t overly dramatic, or with plenty of hugs and hand-slaps, with an overbundance of smiles and laughter, either.
Which is probably just fine with Red Wings rookie Michael Rasmussen.
When Rasmussen, a 2017 1st-round draft pick, was told he was staying in the NHL, the news was delivered in a no-frills manner.
Just like Rasmussen.
“Blash (coach Jeff Blashill) was there, Kenny (general manager Ken Holland), Ryan (assistant GM Ryan Martin) and Shawn (Horcoff, director of player development) was there, and they just told me that I’m staying and just keep going,” Rasmussen said. “They’re happy for me and want me to do well, keep going and do my best.
“Obviously I put a lot of work into wanting to stay here and stuff so it’s pretty good.”
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Still, realizing a life-long dream of reaching the NHL is exciting, even for the even-keeled Rasmussen.
“I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet,” Rasmussen said. “But (I’m) pretty lucky. It’s a great team to be part of, there’s great guys, (I’m) just happy.”
You’re not going to get much emotion out of Michael Rasmussen, it seems, at least for now. He’s straight-forward, business-like, and focused on the task on hand.
He was that way last year during an impressive training camp that had the Wings nearly considering keeping Rasmussen as an 18-year-old drafted into the NHL just a few months earlier.
But Rasmussen went back to juniors, dominated in the Western Hockey League for Tri-City, and returned to the Wings in September with a goal of reaching the NHL.
The Wings wanted that to happen, too. And Rasmussen, all 6-foot-6, 220-pounds of him, didn’t disappoint, whatsoever.
“He’s great around the net, he has a real good set of hands around that area,” Blashill said. “He’s a big man. As much as skating matters in this game, size matters, and he’s a big, big man.”
Fans have been clamoring for Rasmussen to be on this roster for months, and the expectations of that have grown accordingly.
The Wings, themselves, have penciled in Rasmussen onto the roster.
All that pressure, though, didn’t bother Rasmussen, who could still be sent back to junior hockey after 10 games, if need be, though that possibility seems extremely remote.
“I didn’t really focus on the big picture too much,” said Rasmussen, of the pressure that awaited him this training camp. “I just tried to play my game and help the team every night, so I did a pretty good job of that and the work is just starting.
“I have to keep going. I have to keep playing the way I’m playing because the competition is going to go up, so mine has to as well. Just keep being physical and playing my game.”
Health is one reason Rasmussen looked even better and smoother than he did last year, or at the development camp in July.
Rasmussen dealt with two different wrist injuries the past two years, but was pain-free this training camp.
“I just got healthy, that’s the biggest thing for me,” Rasmussen said. “Being healthy and playing my game is important. I did well here last year and kind of put my foot in the door a bit. I went back, got healthy in junior, and played well.”
Blashill believes Rasmussen can make the Red Wings better in a variety of ways.
Rasmussen’s big frame and nose around the net could make him quite effective on the power play, on the net-front, a position he thrived in while in Tri-City.
“Rasmussen’s great at screening, he’s a huge body and he knows how to move out of the way at the right time,” Blashill said. “(And) he’s got a good stick around the net.”
The addition of Rasmussen and fellow rookie, defenseman Dennis Cholowski, who has been able to consistently get the puck to the net during the pre-season, has breathed life into the Wings’ power play.
“(Cholowski’s) really good at being able to get the puck in from the offensive blue line, so he’s a shooting threat from up top,” Blashill said. “When you pair him with Rasmussen in front, Rasmussen has the potential to be a real elite net-front guy and Cholowski could be a little more of a shooting threat than we’ve had.”
Rasmussen will begin his pro career at wing, away from his natural center position, although that could easily change as the season progresses and Rasmussen gets comfortable.
With Blashill saying jobs and roles will continually be up for grabs, probably on a game-to-game basis, Rasmussen understands his game can’t slip now.
“There’s lots of minutes, lots of competition in here, healthy competition,” Rasmussen said. “We all want to play a lot. It’s good healthy competition.”