The Detroit Red Wings have made some decisions on which of their young players they’ll allow to play in the upcoming World Junior Championship. Michael Rasmussen, who has been playing in the NHL this season will not leave the Red Wings to join Canada according to Dhiren Mahiban, who spoke with head coach Jeff Blashill. Filip Zadina though, who has spent the season playing in the AHL, will be released to join the Czech Republic for the tournament. Zadina isn’t expected to leave the Grand Rapids Griffins until just before the tournament, but Blashill told Max Bultman of The Athletic that he’s excited for the young forward’s opportunity:
I think it’s great for him. … I think he can go to play for Czech and be the man, and I think there’s nothing like the confidence that you get when you produce offensively and you have the ability to control the game.
Zadina, 19, was the sixth overall pick in June’s draft despite being rumored to be in contention for the top three picks at one point. His fall is Detroit’s gain, snapping him up to immediately inject some high-end scoring talent into their prospect system. The team was eventually allowed to send him to the AHL instead of back to the QMJHL where he played last season, and Zadina has excelled with 15 points in his first 23 games as a North American professional. That success should carry over to the World Juniors, where he was already a dominant presence last year alongside Martin Necas. Zadina’s seven goals trailed only Kieffer Bellows’ nine for the tournament lead, and this year should be more of the same.
The fact that Rasmussen will not be released to join Team Canada comes as no surprise, given that he is playing regularly for the Red Wings this year. Another high draft pick, ninth overall in 2017, Rasmussen turned heads at training camp and earned a spot despite his still developing offensive game. Things really started to click for the 6’6″ center in the WHL playoffs last season, where he scored an incredible 33 points in 14 games for the Tri-City Americans. Though he has just nine points in 26 games for the Red Wings this year, the development he’s receiving by being around the team on a daily basis is clearly worth more to the organization than a few weeks at a junior tournament.
Canada meanwhile has plenty of options down the middle already, likely adding another reason to the decision to keep Rasmussen in Detroit. There is no guarantee that he would even play a big role on the team, something that Zadina is assured of. In fact, another Detroit prospect Joe Veleno might actually get an increased role given Rasmussen’s absence, as part of a center group that also includes Cody Glass, Gabe Vilardi, Barrett Hayton and Ty Dellandrea among others.