Red Wings: Can Michael Rasmussen Take the Next Step?

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The Detroit Red Wings’ Michael Rasmussen has experienced the weight of being an early first round pick in 2017 since draft day. Is this the year he breaks through?

Age: 22
Center
Third Season With the Red Wings

Stats Snapshot:

Goals: 3
Points: 12
CF%: 45.7%
Pts/60: 1.2
ixG: 8.57
GAR: 0.9

Last Season with the Red Wings:

Rasmussen ping-ponged between Detroit and Grand Rapids through the first 25 games of the season before finally cementing himself with the big club. Rasmussen looked bigger, faster, and a lot heavier on the puck. He was also more of an irritant in front of the net, providing some more hope that he would indeed be that net front presence who could cause problems.

He netted three goals and 12 points, which when adjusted on a Pts/60 scale is slightly below his production during his rookie campaign. However, that version of Rasmussen often looked lost on the ice and was beginning to adjust to the pro game. The current version appears more confident and ready to start taking a larger role on the team.

And you gotta love the beard, too.

Best Case Scenario for this Season

He becomes the goal scoring threat both 5v5 and on the man advantage the Red Wings envisioned when they took him. MLive’s Ansar Khan wrote that he was Detroit’s “most improved player,” and head coach Jeff Blashill lavished praise on the 22-year-old forward:

“Michael Rasmussen, for me, is the most improved player from a year ago,” Blashill said near the end of the season. “He’s clearly a better skater, clearly playing with more confidence, a better defensive player. From a year ago to today he’s probably come the furthest in terms of development.”

This has to be code for increased ice time in Blash-speak, and allowing Rasmussen more time to grow and develop into the big, rugged scoring forward this team needs. I’m not sure if he’ll reach the 20-goal threshold, but getting into double digits, high end 15,  certainly seems possible for the big man.

Worst Case Scenario

Rasmussen remains in that purgatory of being average to above average on the scoresheet. The Red Wings desperately needs scoring and even more than that, needs its younger players to start taking that next step so the rebuild can start moving forward.

The Prediction Part

With Dylan Larkin centering the top line and Pius Suter handling the second, it seems like Rasmussen has the third line locked up, or could find himself shuffled between the third and fourth lines in the middle. Having a more skilled group in the top six (though Jakub Vrana’s injury certainly clouds things a bit for now) should give Rasmussen some better linemates who will be more adept on the offensive side of the puck. That should contribute to more points, and ultimately, more goals.

New assistant coach Alex Tanguay will bring his power play in and if the cerebral Tanguay can utilize Rasmussen’s frame as a net front presence and convert those into goals or more scoring chances, Rasmussen’s numbers should see a healthy climb this season.

Watching the Red and White game made me more hopeful as Detroit was moving a lot more on the man advantage. If Rasmussen is going to see an uptick in scoring, the power play would be the place he can feast.

Trade Deadline Target Possibility Prediction: Not Yet

So I thought about this one because Rasmussen could be an intriguing piece for another team closer to contention or in contention. He’s young, just signed a three-year extension, and a hulking presence if on the right team, could really rack up the points if put in the right place.

On the other hand, he’s only 22, the team is still in a major growing phase of the rebuild, and Blashill, and (presuambly) Yzerman are both high on him. Yzerman didn’t draft him, but he’s hung around this long. It doesn’t seem like now would be the time he’s moved.

Now, if he does struggle this season and is unable to move the needle, it seems likely that he could be dangled in order to maximize value.

Bottom Line

Of his three seasons in Detroit, this is the first where it feels like he could be a real breakout candidate. A lot has to go right of course, but he’s worked hard, and certainly earned his place on the roster as a top nine guy.

Now we’ll see if translates to the scoresheet.

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