Name: Michael Rasmussen
Team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Stats: 50 GP, 32 goals, 23 assists, 55 points, 50 PIMs, -13 plus-minus rating
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 5th (North American Skaters)
NHL Comparable Players: Nick Bjugstad / James van Riemsdyk
When it comes to individual attributes that hockey teams covet in a player, Michael Rasmussen checks off a heck of a lot of boxes.
Size? At 6’5” and roughly 200 pounds, he’s a giant.
Skating? For a man his size, he moves around with surprising smoothness, is firm on his skates, and has a good top speed.
Skill? Rasmussen has a deadly wrist shot that comes off his stick in a hurry, while also regularly displaying quick hands and sharp passing abilities.
Hockey IQ? He plays successfully on the penalty kill and in important defensive situations, showcasing a keen awareness of the play unfolding around him and the know-how to get himself in the right positions.
Indeed, Rasmussen’s full toolbox of talents makes him a tantalizing prospect, a rare blend that is hard to find and held in high demand by NHL teams.
The deeper that you dig with him, the more that you find that you like. For a player that just turned 18 he displays an incredible knack for deflecting pucks to score goals, something that usually takes longer to develop in forwards. His hand-eye coordination and how he angles his stick are highly advanced. He also uses his huge frame and long reach to keep the puck protected in traffic and along the wall, something that a lot of big prospects that turn out to be busts never quite figure out.
However, if you’ve already heard Rasmussen’s name by this point, there’s a good chance that what you’ve heard about him might not have been good. Talk of him being a “red flag” on Twitter and elsewhere online has been a common topic lately.
The main reasons are twofold. First, most of Rasmussen’s production has come on the powerplay and not at even strength. This is a common, and important, scouting critique, as it’s been argued statistically that even strength scoring is a better predictor of future NHL success than powerplay scoring is. If a player doesn’t very score much at 5-on-5 in junior, the logic goes, it’s unlikely that they will score very much at the NHL level.
The second is that much of Rasmussen’s scoring comes from close proximity to opposing nets, that many of his goals are “garbage” goals. This point is evident in any highlight package that you see of him online. This critique, too, is important in scouting, as there is no shortage of forwards in the recent past that were high draft picks because they scored goals through crashing and banging, only to have this production disappear at the NHL level because they were lacking in skill in all other areas and because the competition steadily got bigger and stronger.
With regards to Rasmussen specifically, these criticisms seem to be less relevant. Not only does he possess the identifiable skating, shooting, passing and puck skills that allow him to impact the play in the open ice, some of the advanced techniques that he already uses around the net, such as his ability to deflect pucks out of the air, should translate well to the NHL, too. If a player is consistently scoring 25-30 goals a season in the NHL, does it really matter if most of them are coming off of tips and deflections?
Additionally, Rasmussen is still a raw in a lot of ways, with more muscle mass remaining to add to his frame and some mechanical kinks that can be worked out of his skating. Missing the latter half of the season, including the playoffs, due to injury certainly doesn’t help. There’s still a lot of visible room where his game can, and should, grow, giving him a high ceiling.
It seems likely that at least one team is going to be enticed by the possibility of adding a huge, 200-foot center and jump at the chance to take him high in the draft. Top 10 is a likelihood, and Top 5 might even be a possibility. Given the Stars’ affinity for drafting prospects with size (they haven’t selected a player under 6’2” since the 2014 draft), could Rasmussen be one of the names that they are currently taking a close look at for the 3rd overall pick?