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Red Wings have high hopes for Rasmussen

At 6-foot-6, forward prospect could be dominating net-front presence

by Dave Hogg / NHL.com Correspondent

Michael Rasmussen knows the Detroit Red Wings showed a great deal of faith in him when they selected him with the No. 9 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

He plans to live up to their expectations.

"I want to play in the NHL and I want to play for the Red Wings," Rasmussen said. "I'm working hard to make that happen."

This was the Red Wings' first top-10 selection since they picked forward Martin Lapointe at No. 10 in 1991. When their turn came in June, Gabriel Vilardi, a highly rated center, was available. Some experts thought he could go as high as No. 3, especially after he played a significant role when Windsor won the Memorial Cup in May.

When Vilardi dropped to No. 9, no one would have blinked if Detroit had taken him. Instead, they didn't hesitate to select Rasmussen, a 6-foot-6 center from Tri-City of the Western Hockey League.

Rasmussen might not be as polished as Vilardi, who was selected at No. 11 by the Los Angeles Kings, but he possesses one attribute the Red Wings badly need - the ability to score ugly, gritty goals. Rasmussen would be the tallest skater in team history, and at 18, he's already 221 pounds.

That could make him a dominating net-front presence on the power play, something Detroit has needed since forward Tomas Holmstrom retired in 2012. In 50 games last season, Rasmussen scored 15 power-play goals.

Video: Rasmussen reacts to being chosen 9th overall

Because of the fractured wrist that ended his season in February, Rasmussen didn't take part in the scrimmages at Detroit's prospect camp in July. He was back on the ice earlier this month, playing a game for Canada Red at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

"It felt great to be back on the ice," he said. "It has been a long six months."

The WJSS took place at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, a half-hour drive from the Red Wings' new home at Little Caesars Arena. That meant most of the team's coaching staff and front office were in the crowd when Rasmussen slowly skated off the ice after a big hit.

Fortunately, the problem wasn't serious, nor was it related to his wrist injury.

"I just got a little winded after the hit," Rasmussen said. "I was fine in a minute."

Rasmussen only played one game before Canada condensed its roster into one team, but he got to show some versatility to his future bosses. Instead of his normal position in the middle, he played left wing.

"I've been playing wing my whole life and I've played there a little for Tri-City," he said. "If the Red Wings want me to be a center I'm happy to do that, but if they need me to play somewhere else, that's fine."

Rasmussen might have been away from his natural position, but he impressed the most important person in the building.

"I thought he did a good job," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I've never seen him play before but I thought he skated well for a real big guy, and I think that will continue to improve. It was a good showing."

Rasmussen knows that skating will always be a concern for someone his size, so he's made it a training focus.

"I like my skating, but obviously for a bigger guy it is tough to get around," he said. "I'm working hard on it because you can always be a better skater than you are right now. I'm going to get better and get quicker."

He'll almost certainly be headed back to the WHL this fall, but like so many other junior prospects, he's excited about training camp.

"I'm just going to put my head down, work hard and learn," he said.

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