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Rasmussen ready to compete for roster spot

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
Dennis Rasmussen battles with Matt Carey (left) for the puck at Prospect Camp (Chase Agnello-Dean / Chicago Blackhawks).

With a host of Swedish players already in the organization, the Blackhawks added another over the summer when they inked free-agent forward Dennis Rasmussen to a one-year contract on June 10. The 6-foot-3 center is coming off a successful season with Växjö of the Swedish Hockey League, tallying 16 goals and 24 assists in 52 games while displaying a strong two-way game, as well as winning a bronze medal with Sweden in the 2014 IIHF World Championship. caught up with Rasmussen at Prospect Camp to discuss his decision to come to Chicago, his relationship with current Blackhawks Marcus Kruger and David Rundblad and more.

When you were considering coming over to North America start your NHL career, it's been reported that there were several teams who wanted to sign you. Why did you think Chicago was the best fit?

I feel that their game fits me. I’ve heard so many good things about the organization and the team. Everyone that I know who plays in the NHL told me that Chicago is a great organization and team. And of course, it is a good team that always goes for the Stanley Cup. It has been a dream of mine to win it since I was little.

But the other side of that argument is that with such a competitive team, there aren't going to be many open spots on the roster for an up-and-coming player like you. How are you approaching your situation coming into this season?

I am going to take the challenge to get a spot. I am going to practice hard this summer and come here well-prepared to have a better chance. And of course, I have to show that I want a spot, and I have to be really, really good to take a spot. At the same time, I like the competition and I think I am going to get better.

Did it influence your decision at all, knowing the Blackhawks dressing room is full of players from your home country?

Of course, it is going to help me. I knew Kruger and Rundblad before, when we played together on the [2010] World Juniors team, and there are other Swedes too. It is also going to help me off the ice. It looks like the Swedes like it here, and it looks like they are developing. They are becoming better players here, and I hope it will be the same for me.

How close are you to Kruger and Rundblad?

I know them pretty well. I’ve hung out with them a couple times with the national team and talked with them before I signed with the Blackhawks. I also talked to a couple guys outside the team that are in the NHL right now, and all of them told me that Chicago is a really good city and organization and a great team to play for. Of course I want to be a part of that.

How would you describe your game?

I like to be strong on the puck, and I try to be in the center to get pucks and [try] some give-and-gos. I try to get my own chances while at the same time being responsible at both ends.

Reading your scouting reports, you also seem to have the reputation as a great penalty killer. What's the key to your success in that role?

I don’t know, I just got that role when I played in the World Championship. I played on the PK with my team in Sweden too. I try to be responsible, as I said before—I try to cover up, and I value defense as much as offense. I don’t know what it is, besides trying to read the play and trying to stay in front of the puck.

Is there anything that you've been working on this summer in preparation for adapting to the North American game?

I've got to work on my speed and get used to the small ice surface. You are going to have to be a little bit quicker because it is a smaller ice surface, and you have to get up to speed faster. In Europe, you can gather some speed, but here you have to be quicker on the first step. Of course I have to work on everything, but especially my first step.

So do you have much experience on the smaller North American rink aside from World Juniors in 2010, which was played in Canada?

That is the only time I played on a small surface, but I really liked it. I think it fits me better than the big ice surface. I like it here and it is more fun, I think, since plays develop faster than they do in Europe.

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