Detroit Red Wings: Michael Rasmussen is excelling in new role

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen is excelling playing the wing as a top-six forward, and it’s a change head coach Derek Lalonde needs to embrace, especially if the results during this short-stint continue.

Lalonde moved Rasmussen from the center spot up to the wing on Detroit’s top line ahead of the Washington game this past week, where he’d skate opposite David Perron, flanking captain Dylan Larkin.

Larkin injured his hand near the end of the first period in a game a week or so ago against the Carolina Hurricanes. Larkin took a puck off the hand, similar to Tyler Bertuzzi, and headed right to Detroit’s dressing room to seek medical attention, but would return to action for the start of the second period. Unfortunately, Larkin would not return for the third frame. Detroit’s captain would miss the team’s next game against the Minnesota Wild. You remember; that game Filip Hronek got lambasted by Ryan Reaves. Larkin would return to Detroit’s lineup for Detroit’s game with the Ottawa Senators but, despite skating as a centerman, didn’t take faceoffs in an effort to protect his injured hand.

For the Ottawa game, Lalonde opted to skate Larkin’s former college teammate and big offseason free-agent addition, Andrew Copp, up on the top line. Copp would take the faceoff attempts before immediately sliding over to the wing once the puck had been in play, giving way for Larkin to patrol the middle of the ice, where he’s most comfortable. Lalonde was undoubtedly hoping to see immediate chemistry between Copp and Larkin, but the pair struggled to create any offense as the Senators held both off the scoresheet.

Lalonde didn’t wait long before trying something else ahead of the Washington game. Rasmussen was elevated to the same role Copp had seen the game before, and things began to click for Detroit’s top group instantly. Rasmussen, Larkin, and Perron all recorded a point in Detroit’s overtime loss to Washington. The trio would follow it up with an incredible combined 10-point effort in Detroit’s 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Detroit Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen excelling playing on the wing.

Rasmussen, 23, a towering 6-foot-6 forward, is having a solid offensive season. He’s on pace for a career-high 41-point campaign in his fourth full season with the Detroit Red Wings. When I say full season, that does include the abbreviated COVID-19 year, but following his rookie season, Rasmussen spent time down in Grand Rapids to polish his skills as a 20-year-old.

Playing center comes with so much two-way responsibility and, at times, can slow a young player’s offensive development. Don’t forget, as Larkin broke into the league, head coach Jeff Blashill eased him in on the wing rather than throwing him right to the wolves playing down the middle. Lalonde mentioned that assistant coach Alex Tanguay had been lobbying for Rasmussen to move to the wing for a while.

Detroit’s head coach had this to say about the lineup change.

"“I’ve liked it,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “Ras is a diverse player; he can play center and wing.”Lalonde said assistant coach Alex Tanguay has been lobbying for the switch.“I think it simplifies his game,”  Lalonde said. “(Rasmussen) can skate more north-south being onthe wing, and he’s been pretty good there. Fortunately, with the amount of injuries we’ve had up front all year, it’s been a luxury for those guys who can play both wing and center. Suits going to center the last few games has played very well for us, too.”"

Pius Suter slid back into the middle of Detroit’s lineup, where he spent most of last season but has played nearly exclusively as a utility winger up and down the Red Wings lineup this season, filling in where needed as Detroit remains stricken by injuries.

So far, Rasmussen has accumulated 15 points (6G, 9A) over 30 games, but five of those points came over the last two games playing on Detroit’s top line.

Rasmussen is maintaining a career-best Corsi For Percentage of 47.5 and Relative Corsi For Percentage of 1.3 during even-strength situations this season. His 2.1 points/60 minutes this year is also a career-best.

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The 23-year-old proves he can be a versatile piece for this Detroit Red Wings organization moving forward, whether he’s asked to play as a shutdown center or as an offensive point producer playing the wing as a top-six forward.