Michael Rasmussen experienced his first year of professional hockey in the 2018-19 season. The 6-foot-6, 197-pound forward put up a total of 18 points in 62 games this season — passable numbers for a 19-year-old. Having said that, it’s certain that the Detroit Red Wings expected more from the big-bodied forward, the ninth-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Rasmussen was in a tough spot with his entry-level contract this season; he was too young to play in the AHL but too talented to be sent back to the WHL. Now that he is 20 years old and finally AHL eligible, where will he play next season? Will he tough it out for another season with the Red Wings or will he be sent to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins to grow into his abilities?
Rasmussen’s Development in the NHL
Starting the season in the NHL will allow Rasmussen to compete against the best players in the world. Higher levels of competition will help him learn faster and improve his quick-thinking abilities during high-pressure situations. He’ll be playing alongside Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, and Anthony Mantha, and learning from them could serve as a great boon to his development. Working alongside these teammates will help him to develop line chemistry while simultaneously working out any current shortcomings he may have in his game.
This offseason, he’ll be working on building strength to help him with the tougher aspects of the NHL. If he can put on enough weight, he could become a Tomas Holmstrom-esque player, using his sizable frame to impose his will in front of the net and tip in goal after goal.
Additionally, Rasmussen is still signed to his entry-level contract, which means he’s immune to waivers. If he shows signs that he needs more seasoning, he can be sent down to the Griffins for some conditioning. Letting Rasmussen earn his spot on the roster during training camp is a win-win for the Red Wings. If he makes the roster, he should benefit from playing alongside NHL talent. If he doesn’t make it, he can spend time building up skill and confidence in the AHL. No matter how it turns out, he’ll benefit from the time he’s given.
What the AHL Could Do for Rasmussen
Rasmussen’s biggest issue in 2018-19 was his lack of physicality. He was frequently bullied off the puck, nudged away by more aggressive players who aren’t afraid to throw their bodies. This offseason will be pivotal towards his development as he puts on more muscle and weight to fill out his frame. If he is sent to the AHL to start the season, he’ll have more time to build up confidence and aggression while possessing the puck. Playing with the Griffins will allow him to get to know fellow future Red Wings like Joe Veleno and Dennis Cholowski. Developing chemistry with these players will be pivotal to the future success of the Red Wings, and if Rasmussen can strike up a bond with any of these players, he will no doubt soar to great heights.
If he spends a season with Grand Rapids, his entry-level contract will slide to another year, pushing back restricted free agency. This will give general manager Steve Yzerman more flexibility with his future plans and allow him to reallocate resources as needed. Additionally, Rasmussen will no doubt have a much easier path to earning a spot on the roster once more open up in the 2020-21 season. Spending a season in the AHL seems like a great strategy for both the roster and Rasmussen’s development.
Where Will Rasmussen Play?
It’s likely that Rasmussen will split the season between both leagues, but it’s hard to tell where he’ll start. Judging by this season’s play, it seems more likely that he’ll start with the Griffins. If he shows an impressive burst of production, he’ll be called up early, but it seems probable that he’ll get called up after the trade deadline when the Red Wings will have more room for him on the roster. This will give him the chance to improve on everything and show what he’s learned in the AHL to Yzerman and the rest of the front office. No matter where he winds up, he is in a good spot. It’s not every day that a 19-year-old can crack an NHL roster. The 2019-20 season is the chance for him to show both the AHL and the NHL just what he can do.
Where do you think Rasmussen will end up? Will he be a Red Wings regular, or a Griffins great? Let us know in the comments!