Chicago Blackhawks Grades Roll On With Dennis Rasmussen
(Writer’s note: Richard Panik‘s grade will be part of the trade-deadline acquisitions post, even though he was acquired before the deadline.)
When Marcus Kruger went down with a broken wrist less than 40 games into the season, there was no one who could possibly replace him in a complete manner, playing as a defensive center and turning play the other way. So the Blackhawks called up Dennis Rasmussen from the AHL to fill Kruger’s fourth-line center spot. And overall, it was a fine experiment.
To be totally honest, I mean “fine” in the sense of shrugging your shoulders and nodding a few times. Rasmussen isn’t exactly an offensive dynamo, nor is he a defensive stud at forward. Combine that with the fact he was spending a lot of ice time with Brandon Mashinter and whichever random forward Joel Quenneville wanted to put on his left, and it wasn’t as though Rasmussen was going to go 40-40. Hell, he barely went 4-4.
But we can’t be too harsh on Rasmussen. It was his first run in the NHL, and he parlayed it into a long-term stay with the Blackhawks. And it wasn’t undeserved, like Mashinter’s run was. Rasmussen was absolutely serviceable on the “throw a trio out there and hope it doesn’t implode” line, and that’s really all we could ask for.
2015-16 regular-season stats: 44 games, 4 goals, 5 assists, plus-9 rating, 4 penalty minutes, 42 shots on goal
2016 postseason stats: Did not play
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Rasmussen was given a tough shake with his role on the team — an everyday player with the purpose of playing less than 10 minutes a night and making sure Mashinter didn’t throw the puck to the opposition. He handled it with aplomb, however, always seeming to get to the net during his shifts. In that way, he was a lot like Kruger on the ice.
Rasmussen scored his first NHL goal on his first shot, helping the Blackhawks to a 4-1 win over Nashville on Dec. 8. He actually wound up with 3 goals and an assist in his first seven games, with all of those points coming in Blackhawks victories. His only other goal on the season was a big one, serving as the game-winner in a 3-2 triumph over President’s Trophy winner Washington.
The center also got a little better in the circle toward the end of the regular season. In his last 10 games, he posted a faceoff win percentage better than or of 50 seven times. He also had just five recorded giveaways on the season, and we did see him use his size (6-foot-3, 205 lbs.) to his advantage along the boards on several occasions.
Those faceoffs were rough through other parts of the season, as he finished with a 46.9 percent success rate. Rasmussen also had a nasty pointless streak between Jan. 14 and Feb. 25. It’s a little more understandable considering his average time on ice was well below 10 minutes, but it’s still a knock against him.
His possession rate was serviceable, though not amazing considering he started most of his shifts in the offensive zone. He clocked in at 49.42 percent at even strength. He also just couldn’t be utilized as a defensive forward, although if Q really wanted to use Rasmussen in that role, he would’ve benched Mashinter forever. Yes, I think a lot of Rasmussen’s “shortcomings” had to do with his most-consistent linemate.
While Rasmussen does offer some upside with his size and nose for the net, he’s kind of just there. As a center who struggles to win faceoffs and doesn’t have nearly enough talent to completely make up for it, it’s going to be tough for him to get a consistent run in this organization outside a fourth-line role. And with Kruger re-signed and healthy, that seems very unlikely in the immediate future.
I just can’t grade Rasmussen too harshly with all of the factors around him considered. He did about as well as you could ask for in his first NHL action, playing less than 10 minutes a night and constantly saddled with a useless linemate. He showed some value in spots, but he was ultimately just a filler in a season during which the Blackhwaks’ roster was heavily in flux.