HOCKEY: Surrey’s big Rasmussen makes WHL debut

KAMLOOPS — After being drafted seventh overall by the Tri-City Americans in the 2014 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, Surrey’s Michael Rasmussen was called up to play in his first game in the league last Wednesday (Jan. 21).

Rasmussen, who is playing with the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA), was summoned by the Americans for a road game against the Kamloops Blazers.

Despite a 3-1 loss for the visitors, the 15-year-old centre felt comfortable playing in his first WHL game. He was called for a minor penalty but was otherwise held off the scoresheet.

"I felt really good. I felt like once I got my first shift in, I was more comfortable and got better as the game went on," Rasmussen said. "It’s a lot faster. You get used to it after you get a couple of shifts in, but … everyone is stronger."

He admitted there were a few nerves and he was feeling anxious to get on the ice, but the teen said he stayed mentally focused and "played his game."

Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said he’s been trying to find a time to get his first-round draft pick some ice time, and was impressed with what he saw against Kamloops.

"I thought he played well," said Williamson. "He played a fair amount given it was his first game. He didn’t look out of place at all and got better as the game went on."

Williamson, a former Calgary Hitmen coach, said he’s going to look to bring up the six-foot-three-inch Rasmussen when he gets a chance to give him some more exposure to playing in the WHL.

"He’s got what looks to be a great upside with his physical attributes," Williamson added. "You don’t see very many young men his size that skate well or handle the puck or play as well positionally as (he does)."

The coach said he expects Rasmussen to get more time with the team next season, and is looking forward to what the Semiahmoo Minor Hockey product can bring to the Americans over the coming years.

"I think the transition is going to be smooth for him," Williamson said. "Coming in, it’s always a big jump to play in the Western Hockey League, but his skill attributes, his hockey sense and (his) two-way game are going to help him be a contributor right away."

Malcolm Cameron, Rasmussen’s coach at the Okanagan Hockey Academy, said he has all the tools to become a top-six forward in the WHL.

"(Rasmussen has) all of the physical attributes to be a successful player in the Western League. There’s no question. He’s got size, he’s got strength, he’s going to fill out to be a very, very big man," Cameron said.

Cameron, a former WHL head coach with Regina Pats, said he preached mental preparation to his players who get called up, and that it is the key difference to playing at a higher level.

"A lot of these kids coming out of bantam hockey, they’re so much bigger, stronger and faster than their peer group," Cameron said. "But when they get to junior hockey, they’re going to be playing against 19-and 20-year-olds who are obviously considerably more experienced, stronger and all of those things."

Rasmussen has a high hockey IQ and has become a very good 200-foot player, he added.

With OHA, Rasmussen has tallied 45 points in 36 games and is the fifth player from the academy to get a WHL call-up this season.

Another Surreyite, defenseman Parker Wotherspoon, has played for Tri-City for parts of three seasons. The Cloverdale product has 29 points in 49 games for the Americans this season.

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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