PLYMOUTH, MICH. - Even though Michael Rasmussen didn't play a minute against Team USA Saturday night in the World Junior Summer Showcase, it was a great day for him.
That's because Rasmussen, Detroit's first-round pick, ninth overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings Saturday.
"it's something that I worked for for a long time and something that me and my family put a lot of work into so it's definitely rewarding to be there and I'm just really happy," Rasmussen said before Team Canada played Team USA. "It's a small step. I still got to prove myself now and the real work starts. It's exciting, for sure."
Less exciting perhaps was the actual signing of the contract at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
"He actually signed it back in the rink," said Ryan Martin, the Wings' assistant general manager. "I said, 'This isn't going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance, signing it on top of a garbage can in the back of the rink' but nonetheless, we were really excited to get him under contract and have him start his pro career."
Rasmussen said he just signed the deal, he wasn't too involved with getting it done.
"I kind of let them and my agents deal with it," Rasmussen said. "They just told me to focus on myself and focus on my training and my summer."
Martin said the contract came together in the last couple of weeks and it was just coincidence that Rasmussen happened to be in town for the WJSS.
"Kenny (Holland, general manager) and I saw him at development camp and it seems as if this year there's been a majority of the guys that were drafted right around him had already signed contracts," Martin said. "Kenny, Kris Draper and I talked about signing Michael either now or waiting until camp. We didn't see any reason to wait."
Rasmussen played in just one game at the WJSS, in part due to his recovery from a broken wrist he suffered in February with the Tri-City Americans.
"He could have gone," Martin said. "Because he had missed so much time with the injury and really just come back, he said it felt a little bit sore. I don't want to speak for Team Canada but realistically he's probably going to make their team based on what he does in the fall. I don't know if they're going to get a lot by playing him in one or two extra games this week in such a short amount of time, especially the schedule was to play back-to-back. They thought it was in his best interests to not put him in that game and take more of a longer term approach."
Team Canada coach Dominque Ducharme agreed they were just being cautious with the young forward.
"Rasmussen was injured, obviously he's not playing as much as he would like and we would like," Ducharme said. "But we have to be careful. What I liked in the game that he played is how he uses his size with the skill. So the combination of both. You can see he's still a young player. I think he's going to become a really good power forward."
Rasmussen said he didn't feel restricted by his wrist at all.
"It's good, it's really good," Rasmussen said. "Doing therapy and treatment and all that so my wrist is great."
Martin said just because Rasmussen is signed does not mean he is necessarily going to become a Red Wing in the near future.
"We're not in a rush, we're going to take it one day at a time," Martin said. "He'll come to camp and certainly our expectation with all the players coming into camp but especially as high as him, that he be in a position to at least compete for a spot. But realistically I think the long-term picture would have Michael going back to junior this year and kind of see where he's at from there. Physically he's got to get stronger. He missed a lot of last year with his injury, too,, that certainly has probably at least slowed his development a little bit."
Rasmussen,, who said he intends to play in the prospects tournament in Traverse City next month, knows that he has the power to speed up his development.
"I think I got to come in and have a good camp and finish my summer off strong and start the season and preseason in Tri-City well," Rasmussen said. "It's kind of on me."