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Rasmussen wings it in junior playoffs

May 8, 2018, 12:46 PM ET [1 Comments]
Bob Duff
Detroit Red Wings Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Several Detroit Red Wings prospects enjoyed long playoff runs this spring, and that enabled the team’s staff to get long looks at each player’s progress through the toughest and most important games of the season.

Out west, center Michael Rasmussen, Detroit’s top pick in the 2017 NHL entry draft, enjoyed a spectacular playoff, posting 16-17-33 totals in 17 games as the Tri-City Americans rolled all the way to the conference finals.

“He’s a guy that got better as the year’s gone on,” Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff told Mlive.com. “This is the best hockey he played all year, obviously, and it couldn’t come at a better time.”

Of even more intrigue to the Detroit brass was the fact that Rasmussen skated on the wing in the playoffs, a position he’s most likely to occupy if he cracks the Red Wings lineup for the 2018-19 NHL season.

“He’s learning how to do that,” Horcoff said. “He never has, he’s normally been a center. We know him to be that and view him as that. But at the same time it’s always good to learn how to play wing, which makes him more of a complete player.”

The Wings liked how quickly Rasmussen adapted to his new role, and how well it suited his game.

“Once the playoffs started he found his groove,” Horcoff said. “He was more comfortable. He was hard on the puck. With his size and strength in that league he was really hard to knock off the puck down low. He was making some great offensive plays, some great passes, showing some really good vision from below the top of the circles, which is a nice asset to go along with his good hands and scoring touch out front.”

In the OHL final, goalie Kaden Fulcher of the Hamilton Bulldogs is facing defenseman Jordan Sambrook of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Fulcher already has a signed contract with the Wings, but Sambrook, chosen 137th overall by Detroit in the 2016 NHL entry draft, doesn’t, so this is his last chance to prove to the Wings that they should ink him to a deal. Either they sign him by June 1 or Sambrook goes back into the draft pool.

“He’s solid defensively, he plays all situations, he’s got real good hockey sense,” Horcoff said.

Sambrook played in the Memorial Cup last spring with the Erie Otters, so he’s enjoyed a history of success in the junior ranks.

“He’s one of those guys that seems to play on winners,” Horcoff said. “He knows how to win.”

Pope On Board
The Wings did sign one of their prospects, agreeing to an two-year entry-level deal with left-winger David Pope, their 109th choice in the 2013 NHL entry draft. Since Pope, 23, opted for the NCAA route, playing at Nebraska-Omaha the past four seasons, the Wings gained extra time to make a decision on whether they saw a future in him.

Pope blossomed in his senior year, leading the Mavericks in goals (20) points (41), power-play goals (12) and shots on goal (123) while tying for the team lead in assists (21), and tying for 28th overall in the nation in scoring, and second overall in power-play goals.

Pope tied school records in 2017-18 by recording four assists and five points in a game on Jan. 12 vs. Miami, and he also registered his first NCAA hat trick on Feb. 2 at St. Cloud State. The 6-3, 194-pound forward placed fourth overall in conference scoring with 28 points (14-14-28) in 23 NCAA games and was selected to the NCHC First All-Star Team and NCHC All-Academic Team.

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