There are still some days when the math doesn’t work for Detroit Red Wings center Michael Rasmussen. For the most part, though, there is mounting evidence that Rasmussen is steadily figuring out the equation of what he needs to do on the ice in order to be an effective NHL player.
“He’s working hard at trying to become a really, really good two-way player, a guy who can go out and check against the other team’s best,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Rasmussen. “And it’s not easy. It’s not something that happens right away.
“It takes some time, especially if it’s not something you necessarily had to do prior to this.”
Evidence of Rasmussen’s evolution as a player was again on display as Detroit beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 on Tuesday. His second period goal, Rasmussen’s career-high 11th of the season, knotted the count at 2-2. He was second on the team in hits with four and his 4:09 of power-play ice time was also second among Red Wings forwards.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) April 6, 2022
On his goal, Rasmussen utilized his 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame to occupy space around the Boston goal crease, smacking a loose puck home.
“You’re seeing it now where pucks are starting to go in,” Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s hard around the net.”
Rasmussen has registered three goals over the past four games.
Can Michael Rasmussen Play The Staal Game?
The Wings already list a member of the Staal family on their roster in defenseman Marc Staal. Blashill envisions Rasmussen one day performing in a two-way role for the Wings similar to the one that Carolina captain Jordan Staal is filling for the Hurricanes.
“I’ve used the comparison to Jordan Staal,” Blashill said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be Jordan Staal. Jordan’s has had a hell of a career. Jordan helps Carolina win tons of games and he’s not their highest-scoring player.
“If he can grow into that checking-type center who’s long, who can bring physicality, who can bring an edge, go up against the other team’s best players and shut them down and try to wear them down in the offensive zone and then get on the power play and score goals net front, he’ll be extremely valuable to this organization.”
At this stage of his career, the Wings comprehend that it’s a lot to expect Rasmussen to excel in such a vital role on a nightly basis. But what encourages them is the growth they’ve seen from him as the season is progressing.
“There’s been times where he’s checked well and times where he’s still had to learn,” Blashill said. “It’s easy when things are exactly as how we draw them on the board but rarely in hockey is that the case. So, you learn how to sort through that structure. And sometimes that just comes with experience.
“He’s gained experiences and at times this year he’s done a good job and at times he’s needed to do a better job defensively, but ultimately if he can fit into that role, I think it’s a huge thing for an organization moving forward.”
Adjusting To A Different Role
The ninth player chosen in the 2017 NHL entry draft, Ramussen turned pro off successive 30-goal campaigns for the WHL’s Tri-Cities Americans. He was the go to offensive source for his junior club.
In the NHL, Rasmussen the Wings are asking Rasmussen to tackle a different role. They want him to be a big body at the net front on the power play. That’s not a foreign request to him.
As well, Detroit is grooming Rasmussen to be the team’s shutdown center. He’s seeing a steady diet of facing the likes of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. The expectations are that he’ll be putting the clamps on their offensive exploits.
That’s a tall order for any player, let alone one in his second full season as a pro.
“I do think there’s a mindset at times that a young player has to go through,” Blashill said. “At times it’s hard for them to recognize that maybe they aren’t going to score to the same level. That, to me, has not been the case with Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen Buying Into Team Concept
“I think he’s a guy who’s recognized where he can be valuable. Him and I have had these conversations lots and I think he’s working hard to try and really become unique in a sense that he can be a big, checking center that can also be a net front on the power play and produce points but shut other people down.”
That quick bend and snap — just perfect stuff from Michael Rasmussen. pic.twitter.com/NWWT6sYHKA
— NHL (@NHL) April 3, 2022
Among the Detroit braintrust, there’s a sense of value placed upon Rasmussen for this willingness to embrace change and apply himself in a role that’s best for the team. It’s also gaining him a measure of respect from those who sit alongside him on the Red Wings bench.
“Through his maturity he’s really grown into finding that and playing the right way and gaining trust from the coaching staff, getting put in key situations and then excelling,” Larkin said. “He’s a thorn in the side of key players on the other team every night.
“It’s really encouraging to see the way he plays. He’s really driving the bus for us right now.”