Detroit — Jacob de la Rose has been around the Red Wings for only a few days, but he’s noticed something about rookie Michael Rasmussen.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to realize, or notice, Rasmussen is likely to have a good NHL career.
“He’s a big guy,” de la Rose said of Rasmussen, a 6-foot-6 winger. “He’s very good at using his body at protecting the puck. He’s good down low.
“He’s going to have a lot of success in this league.”
After a difficult start this season, Rasmussen, 19, is beginning to show glimpses of the vast potential the Red Wings have believed he has since drafting him in the first round in 2017.
In Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Edmonton, Rasmussen assisted on de la Rose’s goal, extending Rasmussen’s point streak to three games (he had goals in the previous two games).
Rasmussen played a season-high 17 minutes 31 seconds against the Oilers, and again used his big body well, controlling and shielding the puck, and fending off defenders.
“The last number of games he’s been played good minutes,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s been in our top 3 lines, he’s a power-play guy for us, usually the first unit that goes out. He was out there on 6-on-5 (man advantage at the end of the game).
“We are trying to reward the guys who are playing good and he was playing good (Saturday), so he got out there at the end. If he continues to play at that level, he’ll continue to get those opportunities.”
There was mild speculation the Wings were going to send Rasmussen back to his junior league team in the Western Hockey League before the 10-game mark, so as not to burn the first year of his entry-level contract.
But with Rasmussen having little left to prove in junior hockey, the Wings felt it would be best for his development to remain in the NHL and enable him to learn on and off the ice.
“I don’t even think he thought about it,” Blashill said of whether the speculation impacted Rasmussen. “He planned on being here the whole year. He doesn’t know why we made a big deal out of it.”
With an opening in the schedule recently, the Wings scratched Rasmussen and had him work extensively in the weight room.
“He’s really grown from the last time we sat him,” Blashill said. “He’s been much, much better on a consistent basis. Then, when you score, your confidence grows.
“I see his confidence growing. He’s playing good hockey.”
What Rasmussen does particularly well, and for a big 6-foot-6 forward it’s a valuable trait to have, is hold on to the puck.
“Holding on to the puck and making plays with the puck,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s been making the right decisions, holding on to the puck, and making plays when the plays are there and shooting the puck when he can shoot it.
“It’s encouraging to see, and we’ll see more from him. He’s getting better every game.”
The Wings’ modest 3-game win streak came to end Saturday against Edmonton, with the Oilers holding on for a 4-3 victory.
Tyler Bertuzzi’s goal cut Edmonton’s lead to 4-3 with 1:26 left, but the Wings couldn’t get the tying goal.
Edmonton scored goals early in the first and second periods, forcing the Wings to play from behind.
“The last three wins, we were on our toes,” Blashill said. “This game, we were on our heels for too much of the game."
The line of de la Rose, Rasmussen and Gustav Nyquist was the Wings' most effective, creating several quality chances, in to addition to de la Rose scoring his first goal with the Wings.
"They were our best line," Blashill said. "de la Rose has been very, very good for us. He's a real strong player, wins puck battles, wins puck races. He knows how to leverage his body."
The Wings claimed de la Rose off waivers from Montreal in late October.