CHICAGO - Just as the Red Wings made a positive impression on Michael Rasmussen at the scouting combine, Rasmussen was equally impressive to them.
That is one reason the Wings took Rasmussen with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft Friday night at the United Center in Chicago.
"We took a group of five North Americans, five Europeans out for dinner on separate occasions," said Tyler Wright, the Wings' director of Amateur Scouting. "This guy is all business. He's a very mature young man that lives and breathes and dies hockey. This is his life. Obviously, character goes a long way with what we're trying to build, but we want to be a harder team to play against, we want to get bigger down the middle and he just kind of checked all those boxes. We were excited when we had the opportunity to jump on him at nine."
The other reason, of course, is the fact that Rasmussen is 6-foot-6, 221 pounds, and has skill and scoring ability.
"We wanted to get bigger down the middle," Wright said. "Obviously, we accomplished that. He's got good size. I think the lucky thing for us this year, he had an injury, got hurt in January, a little bit misdiagnosed and didn't play after middle of February. So a little bit out of sight, out of mind kind of helped us in our favor.
"We want to get bigger, we want to get harder to play against. With that he's got good touch. He scored 32 goals in 50 games this year. He's got character through the roof. Just got named captain of Tri-City this year. It was an area of need through the middle with size and competitiveness, with some ability to finish."
Wright said they had predicted the first four players that would be taken in the draft and had three guys in mind at nine.
"We had those three guys targeted and we weren't moving down," Wright said. "We actually had an opportunity to move down. We decided to make the pick. Those three guys at nine, he was one of them that was available and we're happy that he was."
Often the knock on players with that kind of size is their skating but Wright put those fears to rest.
"I had zero issues with his skating," Wright said. "I actually think he's a good skater. He's a big man who's still developing. He's just going to continue to get stronger and when he does that he'll continue to add weight. We just got to get him on that track."
Rasmussen said he has worked diligently on his skating so that it wasn't an issue for teams.
"It's obviously the biggest thing for me, being a big guy, it's tough to get a bigger frame around," Rasmussen said. "It's something I worked hard on in the summer with my speed coach and skating coach. It's something I pride myself on and need to improve on for sure."
Wright said he envisions Rasmussen, Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Svechnikov with their size and Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou with their speed making the Wings a better team in the near future.
"We're trying to build this and we strongly believe, that's why we made him the pick at nine, with his size and the way this game is going today, we're going to be a hard team to play against and he's going to be a big reason because of it," Wright said.
Of course, there are still things that Rasmussen and all the 2017 picks need to work on before they are ready for the NHL.
"I think all these kids are a little bit naive," Wright said. "They're highly touted, they think that they can make this next step right away. One of the biggest things is the maturity level with this kid. He's just going to continue to grow, he's going to get exposed to playing in all those situations, he's going to need big summers in strength, he needs to learn the game. But at the end of the day, he's big and he can skate and he can think so we just got to him going in the right direction and pass him on to (director of player development) Shawn Horcoff now."
FAMILY FIRST: Rasmussen said he brought a good support group with him to Chicago for the draft.
His parents, Denise and Paul, and his older sisters, Jaclyn and Samantha, plus some cousins and friends, all came along to the United Center.
"It's not just about me, it's for my family as well," Rasmussen said. "Obviously very happy and very fortunate."
READY FOR DAY 2: Although the 2017 draft class is not considered to have generational players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, it is considered to have a lot of talented centers.
Now that the Wings have drafted one in Rasmussen, would they consider drafting another with their 10 remaining picks?
"Yeah, absolutely," Wright said. "I think it's deep in the defense corps too. I think maybe not so much in the first round. But there's a lot of depth after that. I think in this draft you're going to get players in that second, third, fourth rounds that might be able to surprise some people. We just got to make the right ones. It's going to be a busy day (Saturday). We're excited."
The Wings have one second-round pick at 38; four third-round picks at 71, 79, 83 and 88; one fourth-round pick at 100; one fifth-round pick at 131; two sixth-round picks at 162 and 164; and one seventh-round pick at 193.