This post is part of Red Wings Day on PHT…
First, a disclaimer — there were plenty of other viable candidates for this category. Probably more viable ones, to be honest.
Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, captured the Calder Cup last year on the strength of excellent performances from youngsters like Martin Frk, Evgeni Svechnikov and Tyler Bertuzzi, who captured playoff MVP.
All of them are looking to make the Wings on a full-time basis. But there’s another that says he wants to do the same, and he’s just a little more intriguing:
Rasmussen, 18, was taken ninth overall by Detroit at this year’s draft, the club’s highest pick since taking Keith Primeau at No. 3 in 1990. Now, the big-bodied power forward is looking to make a significant leap, all the way from WHL Tri-City to the NHL.
“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,” Rasmussen said at the World Junior Summer Showcase, per NHL.com. “I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can and I want to help the team win.”
Detroit’s organizational model has long been to send kids to the American League, at let ’em marinate. But times, they are a changing.
Two seasons ago, Dylan Larkin made the roster as a 19-year-old, going pro after his freshman campaign at the University of Michigan. Last year both Svechnikov (20) and Bertuzzi (22) saw games with the big club, while 22-year-olds Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha emerged as key parts of the lineup.
That could pave the way for Rasmussen getting an extended look. Especially since Detroit has the option to give him a nine-game NHL cameo before burning the first year of his entry-level deal.
Rasmussen has a few things working in his favor at the moment, too. The first is his size. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he should be able to handle the physical rigors of the NHL. He’s proven to be a good net-front presence that can score in bunches on the power play, and it’s worth remembering that Detroit finished 27th in the league with the man advantage last year.
Rasmussen is also healthy. He was medically cleared from a wrist injury that derailed his season in Tri-City, which resulted in a late addition to the Canadian roster for the Summer Showcase. That came as a relief to Wings GM Ken Holland, who told NHL.com it was “important” the prized prospect was healthy for training camp.
Now look, the reality of the situation is that Rasmussen’s facing an uphill battle to make the opening-night roster. A return to junior seems the likely result. He’s already been named Tri-City’s captain for next season, and several pundits have said he’ll need a spectacular showing in the exhibition campaign to stick around.
But he’s still the highest-drafted Red Wing in 27 years. That alone makes the battle worth watching.