This winter, Michael Rasmussen would love the chance to play for Team Canada at a rink in his own backyard, so to speak.
The Surrey-raised hockey player has a good shot of wearing the maple leaf when Vancouver and Victoria host the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship starting in December.
“It’d be pretty cool to play so close to home, for sure. It’s a great hockey town, my hometown, so it’s cool,” said Rasmussen, 18.
“I’ve watched (the World Junior tournament) for as long as I can remember, and when I was younger they won pretty much every year I watched, so there’s lots of memories there,” he added. “You know, watching guys like (John) Tavares and the big (Jordan) Eberle play, stuff like that is very memorable. I grew up watching pretty much every year.”
Last week, the six-foot-five Rasmussen was noticed for his power-forward potential during the 2018 Sport Check World Junior Showcase tourney held in Kamloops. In three games played, he scored twice and added two assists, and was physical when needed.
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) August 4, 2018
The Now-Leader caught up with the Detroit Red Wings prospect before the tournament’s first whistle.
“I grew up with a lot of these guys, playing with them in the (Hockey Canada) program, and it’s fun to get going here,” said Rasmussen, the left-shooting resident of the Morgan Creek area.
“It was exciting to get that call (to participate in the Showcase),” he added. “It’s always cool to be part of these camps and see all the guys, and have a chance to wear the logo again, it’s good.”
In Kamloops, Rasmussen was among 24 forwards on the two Team Canada rosters, adding to a personal resumé that includes his participation in the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and, with Team B.C., the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Rasmussen recently played a big role in Tri-City Americans’ playoff run in the WHL. For his efforts in early April, he was named the league’s On the Run Player of the Week.
The Semiamoo Minor Hockey alum, who went to school at Southridge and, briefly, Earl Marriott Secondary, was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, ninth overall, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
This fall, he’d love to play his first NHL game with the fabled Motor City team.
“I went to development camp last month there, so I’ll go to (training) camp again and do my best, and I’m going to try to make the team, that’s pretty much it,” Rasmussen said confidently. “There’s lots of opportunity there, and I have a good shot to make the team, I just have to do well and play my game. It’s all on me.”
If he doesn’t permanently suit up with the Red Wings this season, Rasmussen could return to Tri-City Americans for another run at a Memorial Cup next spring.
Five years ago, heading into his second year of Bantam hockey, Rasmussen made a difficult decision to leave Semiahmoo to play at Okanagan Hockey Academy in Kelowna.
“Those were two of my biggest years in hockey, for sure, just with the coaching staff and how much I learned about the game, it was huge,” he said about his experience at OHA. “I realized I could be a hockey player and realized I could be a good player, so it was great. My billets were unreal there, so overall it was the best experience of my life.”
It wasn’t easy leaving home as a 13-year-old, he admitted.
“And it was tough to leave my buddies back home, too, guys I played with, but I knew it was the best thing to do at the time,” Rasmussen said. “I was definitely pretty young leaving home, at that age, but it was the best thing to do for hockey and that’s what I needed to do.”
Today, Rasmussen is playing his way to a pro career, with an appearance at the high-profile World Junior tournament a good possibility.
Team Canada head coach Tim Hunter knows what it takes to win gold, as he was an assistant when the squad won the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo last January.
“He just wants us to compete, and he’s given us a bit of a baseline about his expectations, of the style of play he wants, so it’s about that and trusting your teammates and also having some fun, getting to know the guys,” Rasmussen said about his week in Kamloops. “He’s a great coach and a good leader for us, so that’s good.”