Michael Rasmussen, the Detroit Red Wings’ 2017 first-round draft pick, has officially signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team. Rasmussen, Detroit’s second-highest draft pick since selecting Keith Primeau third overall in 1990, has been a controversial topic in Hockeytown, to say the least.
When Ken Holland and company announced the 6-foot-6 center’s name as the ninth overall pick in June’s draft, many fans were shocked when the Wings passed on several higher-ranked players still available on the draft board. Nonetheless, Detroit got the player they wanted and Rasmussen may become a big part of the Red Wings’ future.
Despite the criticism, Rasmussen has a lot to potentially offer the Wings as they prepare to forge a new chapter in the team’s storied history. He’s a big-bodied power forward who likes to work for the puck in the dirty areas and has a knack for scoring goals while on the power play. Since the retirement of Tomas Holmstrom, the Wings have desperately missed a true net-front presence while on the man advantage, something the 6-foot-6 Rasmussen certainly has the ability to provide.
Rasmussen Gets His Shot
Ryan Martin, Detroit’s assistant general manager, was quick to clarify that the Red Wings are by no means in a hurry to rush Rasmussen into the NHL, but are also giving him a chance to compete for a job:
“We’re not in a rush, we’re going to take it one day at a time,” Martin said. “He’ll come to camp and certainly our expectation with all the players coming into camp but especially as high as him, that he be in a position to at least compete for a spot. But realistically I think the long-term picture would have Michael going back to junior this year and kind of see where he’s at from there. Physically he’s got to get stronger. He missed a lot of last year with his injury, too, that certainly has probably at least slowed his development a little bit.”
It’s worth noting that the Red Wings didn’t waste much time in signing Rasmussen—he actually signed the contract on a garbage can lid—and are now allowing him a shot to impress at the team’s training camp in September. Detroit is historically known for keeping its prospects in developmental leagues for extended periods of time, but the organization may be starting to contemplate the pros and cons of over-ripening its prospects.
Since 2010, the Red Wings have selected six players in the first round of the NHL Draft, including Rasmussen. Of those six players, four have appeared in the NHL (Riley Sheahan, Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Evgeny Svechnikov) after spending an average of 95 total games in the AHL. Dylan Larkin is the exception to the rule as he only appeared in six total games with the Grand Rapids Griffins before making the jump to Detroit. If you take those numbers into consideration, it appears to be a safe bet that Rasmussen will certainly spend some time developing elsewhere.
The Right Mindset
Aside from his impressive physical size and power-play efficiency, it was Rasmussen’s character that really impressed the Red Wings when the team did its due diligence on him prior to the draft. Described as a family-oriented person who “lives, breathes and dies hockey,” Michael certainly has both the drive and the mindset to succeed at the NHL level, whether it be sooner or later. Speaking of his mindset, Rasmussen recently suggested that he is already preparing to take a roster spot on the Red Wings:
“I’m taking the approach that I’m going to take someone’s job and I’m going to take a spot on the team. I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can and I want to help the team win.”
It’s not hard to love this kid’s moxie. There may not have been any other pick in the top 10 this year that faced as much criticism as Detroit did when they went off the board and drafted Rasmussen, and that could turn out to be a good thing. Michael appears to have the determination and intestinal fortitude to prove the critics and naysayers wrong.
All eyes will most certainly be fixated on Rasmussen when the Red Wings take the ice at training camp next month. Can Detroit’s highest draft pick in over a quarter of a century make a big enough statement to earn a roster spot? It’s not impossible, but it’s also not very probable. Either way, Michael Rasmussen is a player that fans in Hockeytown will want to keep their eyes on.