A few days ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, there are a number of teams salivating at the idea of adding a player like center Michael Rasmussen to their organization.
Not only does Rasmussen have the instincts of a scorer, the 18-year-old is already built like a man (6-foot-6, 221 pounds), fitting the profile of the modern power forward that every team is seeking, especially in the middle of the ice.
Often times in the past we have seen players with the gift of size being limited in other aspects of their game, such as skating ability or stickhandling skills. That does not appear to be the case for Rasmussen. He uses his speed to get to the net, his size to set up in front of the opposing goalie and his hands and reach to pick up any loose pucks around the crease.
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"I would say my biggest strength is around the net," Rasmussen said. "I can protect the puck and I drive the net hard."
In 50 games this season with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League (Rasmussen dealt with knee and wrist injuries), he had 55 points (32 goals, 23 assists) and 50 penalty minutes. He scored 15 of his goals on the power play, most of them coming from in front of the net.
"[Rasmussen] has either the best natural instinct or willingness to get to the net and go around the net," Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. "And it sounds simple, but a lot of guys play on the perimeter [and] are not willing to go there, or just are off to the side enough to make it easy for a goalie. But his natural first instinct when he gets over the blue line is to get around the net."
Video: Alan Hepple on draft prospect Michael Rasmussen
That helps explain why NHL Central Scouting ranked Rasmussen as the fifth-best North American skater on its final ranking list, even if some scouts have expressed reservations about his production at 5-on-5 this season.
"I don't think you can describe my game with one label," he said when asked if he felt he was a power forward. "It is one of my strengths because I go to the net, but I can make plays too and I can play in my own end."
Over the past 10 years, there have been 15 players who were 6-foot-5 or taller taken in the first round of the draft, but only four of them were forwards. Logan Brown (No. 11, Ottawa Senators) and Riley Tufte (No. 25, Dallas Stars) were selected last year, and the two others were Michael McCarron (No. 25, Montreal Canadiens) in 2013 and Joe Colborne (No. 16, Boston Bruins) in 2008.
So if his ranking is any indication, Rasmussen has a chance to become the highest drafted big forward in the past 10 years.
"I think hockey is going in that direction," he said. "Every team wants a big center, so that works for me."
NHL.com Staff Writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report.