The Tri-City Americans hockey brass has appeared to hit a homerun with the seventh overall selection of Michael Rasmussen in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. He has the makings of a star while looking anything but a freshman this year. He not only looks older than 16 years old with an imposing 6-foot-4, 180-pound stature, but he also plays well beyond his years with a potent blend of a strong skating ability, high-end vision and an edge to his game.
“Michael has made the jump to the WHL a seamless transition due to his approach to preparing for practices and games,” says Americans general manager Bob Tory. “He is a very mature and serious, but also enjoys the day-to-day struggles that make you a better player and person. He has learned at a young age that the journey is much more important than the destination. He is focused on constant and never-ending improvement.”
The left-handed centre, who has scored seven goals and 17 points in 23 games, points to the work he put in last offseason as a major reason why he’s hit the ground running in Tri-City.
“I think a hard offseason is paying off,” says Rasmussen. “I worked hard to get stronger and faster and get ready for this season.”
In addition, with the 11-16-1-0 Americans going through a retool period, the Surrey, B.C., native feels he’s been given an opportunity to succeed and has been eased into the league by the organization.
“The Americans do a good job of getting players settled here,” he says. “I have good billets and have been taken care of by the team. They’ve set me up with everything I need off the ice and have given me a good opportunity on the ice.”
Rasmussen’s impressive play hasn’t caught too many onlookers by surprise based on his 2014-15 season at the Okanagan Hockey Academy. He was a dominant force at the midget prep level, netting 27 goals and 50 points in 28 contests.
“I developed a lot there,” says Rasmussen. “Definitely seeing how many guys from there play in the WHL, it shows they have really good development. They helped me a lot to develop into a better player.”
When taking into account Rasmussen’s size, elite skill set and pro upside, it is easy to think of former Calgary Hitmen and Anaheim Ducks centre Ryan Getzlaf when looking for a reasonable comparison. He clearly has a long road ahead of him before he's in the same company as a legitimate NHL superstar, but the shared characteristics are quite visible. Moreover, considering Getzlaf only netted 18 points in his WHL rookie season, Rasmussen appears to have a head start on the major junior side of things.
“It’s a big complement to be compared to him (Getzlaf),” he says. “Those big centres, I study and watch them and see how they play in the NHL. I have the size and can use that to help me with my reach and to play physical in the tough areas. I’m lucky my dad and my uncles are all tall because my size is an advantage.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen