DETROIT -- Throughout the Detroit Red Wings' rebuild, the club has selected several promising prospects as high draft picks who the organization hopes will develop into future NHL superstars.
And since the Red Wings returned to the NHL Draft Lottery in 2017, many have been impressed with the development of center Michael Rasmussen and hope he continues to set the tone for fellow - and future - Red Wings draft picks.
When Rasmussen was selected ninth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, he was a raw, 6-foot-6 forward prospect with a lot of potential, but he needed to refine his game to succeed at the highest level.
Rasmussen has worked tirelessly on his game since the draft, and Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said the difference between the center's skillset from 2019-20 to 2020-21 is stark.
"He's clearly a better skater, clearly playing with more confidence and clearly a better defensive player," Blashill said in May. "He's come one of the furthest in terms of development."
Video: DET@TBL: Rasmussen finds twine on loose puck in front
Rasmussen suited up in eight games for the Red Wings to start the 2020-21 campaign before being sent to Detroit's AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins on Feb. 1. However, after tallying six points in his first seven games for the Griffins, he was recalled to the Red Wings on March 2 and finished the season in Detroit.
The center continued earning his spot on the ice each game, impressing the coaching staff with his poise and control as he compiled three goals and nine assists in 40 games for the Wings.
But perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Rasmussen was the trust he garnered from the coaching staff, earning a much bigger role last season, averaging almost three minutes more ice time per game than in 2019-20 and ranking second on the club with 72 hits and fourth with 134 face-off wins.
He continued gaining trust throughout the season, jumping from 12:50 of average ice time in his first 20 games of the season to 16:46 per game in the final 20 contests.
"I was pleased for sure. I think it was a big year for me," Rasmussen said about his performance last season. "I started in GR, I had good people around me to support me, and once I got to Detroit, I just tried my best to contribute and play my game and play with confidence, play hard. So I think it was definitely positive for me and I think it's just a good stepping stone."
Video: CBJ@DET: Rasmussen scores after going hard to the net
Blashill said Rasmussen did everything the coaching staff asked of him, and the staff now feels comfortable with the center on the ice in any situation.
"He's shown that he's a guy that was ready for the opportunity, and he's gained tons of experience," Blashill said. "He's been out there 5-on-6, he's been out there 6-on-5, power play, penalty kill. You hope that expedites his development."
And because of that earned trust and continued development, the Red Wings rewarded the 22-year-old former restricted free agent with a new three-year contract on July 22.
Rasmussen said he's ecstatic to continue playing for Detroit and was relieved to get the deal done during the offseason so he can focus on preparing for the upcoming 2021-22 campaign.
"I'm really excited," Rasmussen said after signing his deal. "I'm happy, obviously, to get it done, but to get it done early is really good. (I'm going to) keep working and getting ready for the season. To get it done is nice, just focus on hockey now, just keep trying to get better."