**Courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings**
PLYMOUTH, MICH. – For a guy who hadn’t played in a game since February, Michael Rasmussen more than held his own Tuesday night at the World Junior Summer Showcase at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich.
The same couldn’t be said for his team, Canada Red, which lost an 8-2 exhibition to Team USA White.
“It was all right,” Rasmussen said. “We wanted to get the win there but it was obviously good to wear the sweater and stuff like that but we got to do better for sure.”
Rasmussen was the Red Wings’ first-round pick, ninth overall, in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft and was a late addition to Team Canada’s roster.
“I just want to kind of watch the older guys and the staff and learn as much as I can,” Rasmussen said. “It’s about learning here and I am going to watch guys who have done this before. They are all amazing leaders, amazing guys, so I am going to take as much as I can from them.”
Rasmussen fractured his left wrist playing for the Tri-City Americans in February and was only cleared for action at July’s development camp. He was held out of the camp’s only scrimmage.
“I feel good, obviously when you can get back playing and get back to doing what you love it’s great,” Rasmussen said. “Six months is a long time. I’m thrilled to be back.”
Rasmussen played on the wing with center Michael McLeod and wing Matthew Phillips.
The Wings had plenty of their front office members on hand in Plymouth, including senior vice president Jim Devellano, vice president and general manager Ken Holland, assistant general manager Ryan Martin, assistant to the general manager Kris Draper, Wings coach Jeff Blashill and numerous scouts.
“I thought he did a good job,” Blashill said. “I’ve never seen him play before. I thought he skated well for a real big guy, I think it’s going to continue to improve. I thought he made tons of plays in small areas, which is to me a big factor to tell. It’s easy to make lots of cute plays or whatever but as you get up in the ranks of hockey, you have to make plays in tight spaces and I thought he did an excellent job of that. For me, it was a good showing.”
At 18 years old, Rasmussen is already 6-foot-5, 200 pounds.
Draper said he texted Rasmussen before the event, congratulating him on being selected for Team Canada and wishing him good luck.
“You love his size,” Draper said. “I thought his skating looked good. Real good puck protection down low and a couple times I noticed where he was putting nice, little puck placement pass, just the little things that you saw. The one time he got to the net, (Jake) Oettinger’s a big goalie, big guy and Rasmussen kind of gets right in front and you see him trying to look around. Obviously the score’s not great but we thought Rasmussen’s done some good things out there for us.”
In addition to his size, the other thing that stands out about Rasmussen is his serious nature.
“Certainly he’s very serious,” Holland said. “I think he was named captain of his Tri-City team a couple of weeks ago and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why he’s all business. It’s part of the reason why you select him. Obviously there’s a lot of other reasons why you select him but we like his intensity, he’s very competitive and those are certainly important ingredients we think in building a hockey team.”
Rasmussen will be able to use that intensity to his advantage as he works to improve as a player.
“Obviously read some stuff through development camp, someone was saying if he’d just smile,” Draper said. “He’s obviously a very intense hockey player and you know that he’s going to do that on and off the ice. He’s got a chance to play at 230, 240 pounds with the frame that he has. He’s only 18 years old and has the opportunity to get big and strong.”
As the game went on, Rasmussen threw his weight around a bit more, checking Team USA White players in his way.
“I’m a big guy, if I’m not finishing my checks I’m not using my size and my frame,” Rasmussen said. “That’s something they stressed here, using my edge and trying to get an edge on guys so that’s something I work on and something I have to get more consistent at.”
After one hit, Rasmussen appeared to be in a bit of pain as he headed to the bench.
“I just got a little winded there, collided with another big body, but I’m fine, just a bit of wind there,” he said.
Rasmussen finished even and had one high-sticking minor penalty.
Rasmussen said he learned a lot at the Wings’ development camp last month and hopes to carry that forward this coming season.
“I take my nutrition and training and my sleep very seriously and I have for a long time,” Rasmussen said. “For me it’s a step. The draft was a step, prospect camp was another step and this is another step. Those are all small steps, but I’ve got a ways to go here.”
Team Canada and Team USA each had two teams in exhibition play but will reduce that to one team apiece starting Wednesday.