The 2021-22 season will always be remembered as the year Detroit Red Wings fans were introduced to Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, and for good reason. However, buried somewhere in the footnotes of their 2021-22 season is the fact that it was also when forward Michael Rasmussen made some real progress towards becoming a key fixture in the Red Wings’ lineup.
The 23-year-old British Columbia-native is now set to embark on his fourth season with the Red Wings, and expectations for Rasmussen have never been higher. If his third season in Detroit was any indication, however, then he’s prepared to embrace those expectations and work towards reaching them.
Rasmussen Rebounds in New Year
Rasmussen had a career-best season in 2021-22, registering 15 goals and 27 points through 80 games. He won 50.1 percent of the 819 faceoffs he took, averaged 14:31 in ice-time, and he asserted himself as a player that can be relied upon in the defensive zone. But looking at Rasmussen’s season as a whole doesn’t exactly tell the whole story.
As you may recall, the air around Rasmussen felt a lot different in the winter months of December and January. He wasn’t playing all that well, routinely getting outworked, outmuscled, and outplayed, especially in the defensive zone. He was never outright terrible, but it was hard to argue that he was a real asset to the team during that timeframe.
To his credit, he seemed aware that his game wasn’t where it needed to be. That was never more obvious than when he gave his New Year’s Resolution to the Red Wings’ social media team:
“Be better at hockey,” Rasmussen answered. In the 30 games before the new year, he had just three goals. In the 50 games after ringing in the new year, he had 12 goals, including six goals in the month of April which only contained 15 games. Suddenly, he was scoring on breakaways, causing turnovers (his plus-13 takeaway/giveaway rating was the best on the team) and he overall looked a lot more confident in all areas of the ice. The kid they call “Moose” had finally arrived.
“I just came to work everyday,” Rasmussen said. “I guess a little bit of luck and some results came towards the back half, but even before that I came to work everyday.”
Entering the 2022-23 season, Rasmussen now faces the challenge of carrying that momentum and running with it over the course of a full season. If he can, he’ll see his stock increase dramatically over the course of the campaign.
4th Liner, or Something More?
“I’m excited,” Rasmussen answered when asked how he was feeling entering training camp. “I think I just got to keep building off of the positives from last year, learn from some of the negatives and just have a good camp and good preseason.”
Like everyone else on the Red Wings’ training camp/preseason roster, Rasmussen has a fresh opportunity in front of him, provided by a new coaching staff that is adamant about giving everyone a fresh start. While the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2017 draft did take some steps forward under former head coach Jeff Blashill, there’s no question that new head coach Derek Lalonde expects to get even more out of Rasmussen and the rest of his teammates. That then begs the question: what is Rasmussen on a Lalonde-coached team?
In previous years, Blashill mentioned on multiple occasions that he thought Rasmussen could develop into a match-up center similar to Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes. Given his improved defensive play and faceoff abilities, it sure seems like Rasmussen has made some progress towards becoming that type of player. However, Rasmussen also experienced some success while playing on the wing on the top line alongside Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond. Playing a more simplified game on the wing seemed to suit Rasmussen well, and it provides ample material to debate what position he ultimately has a future at.
While Lalonde cautioned against reading too far into lineups during the Red vs. White scrimmage held this past weekend, Rasmussen lined up down the middle in between Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina, forming a line that was a handful for Team White throughout the scrimmage. Then, heading into the Red Wings’ first preseason game last night, the trio was set to skate together once again. Vrana woke up feeling under the weather, however, and so he was replaced with Dominik Kubalik on that line with Rasmussen and Zadina. Still, this suggests that Lalonde is toying with the idea of using Rasmussen in more of an elevated role than the fourth line spot most of us had him penciled into.
Rasmussen Could Be a Key Part of Sustained Success
When teams are rebuilding, they are trying to replenish the talent pool on their roster and in their prospect pool. Red Wings fans know this quite well by now; Rasmussen was technically the first piece of the rebuild, drafted ninth overall after the Red Wings’ 25-year playoff streak came to an end. Though he’s still in his early 20s, it sort of feels like he’s been around forever – believe it or not, he and Filip Hronek are the third-longest tenured players on the Red Wings’ roster entering this season.
It hasn’t come easy for Rasmussen. His rookie season in 2018-19 only happened because he was too good to play in the Western Hockey League, but he was too young to play in the American Hockey League. It was either the NHL or a return to junior hockey, and the Red Wings opted to keep him in Detroit – and the growing pains were obvious. After earning his way back into the NHL during the 2020-21 season, he endured countless ups and downs on his way to breaking out at the end of last season. He’s a player that has had to legitimately work to get better – that’s the type of player you want around as a role model as the next wave of kids look to take over this roster. To that point, he wore an ‘A’ as an alternate captain for Team Red during the Red v. White scrimmage, and they didn’t give those out based on who arrived to the rink first.
Rasmussen may be valued more by the Red Wings organization than any of us realize. He’s huge, and NHL executives love players with size. He’s adaptable, showing that he can perform on both the wing and down the middle. But most importantly, he’s willing to put the work in to, as he put it, “be better at hockey.” It’s one thing to rebuild the team, but if the Red Wings can get enough players that share his mentality, that’s how they’ll rebuild the culture of this team.
But in order to do any of that, Rasmussen has to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke and continue to show that he’s an “everyday player” for this team.
“I think confidence is kind of something you go day-by-day with,” Rasmussen said. “You can’t get too high or too low, so I just try to earn my confidence with my work and compete everyday. The rest will take care of itself.”
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.