NHL Success Worth the Wait

Three times, Dennis Rasmussen was eligible for the NHL draft. Three times, he heard from teams that were interested in selecting him. Three times, he thought he might get picked.

Three times, he went undrafted. 

“When you’re a young kid and your dream is to play in the NHL, of course, you’re a little bit disappointed,” Rasmussen said. “But at the same time, it’s not over yet. You have to work even harder, and everything came pretty late for me. I just had to work harder.”


Better late than never. 


Rasmussen has come from seemingly out of nowhere to become the answer the Hawks have been looking for at third-line center. In just nine games since becoming the ninth Rockford player to get a shot with the Hawks this season, he has three goals and an assist and has formed a nice partnership with fellow big body Bryan Bickell. And as his tremendous one-man effort on a goal in Buffalo showed, the 6-3, 205-pounder has more offensive skill and power than most realized. 


“We didn’t envision the offense,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We like how he’s playing overall, putting the puck in the net, and that line’s been effective. It’s a bit surprising, but we’ve been pleased.”


Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise. Rasmussen never took the easy way. Never had a choice, really. After going undrafted during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts, Rasmussen spent one more season in the Swedish minor leagues before getting promoted to the Elite League. After scoring 16 goals in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, Rasmussen finally started drawing serious interest from the NHL.


He had multiple suitors, but the Hawks were among the most aggressive. The track record of successful Swedes in Chicago helped, and a recruiting pitch from countryman David Rundblad put the Hawks over the top. Rasmussen signed with the Hawks in June of 2014. 


He was briefly called up as insurance during a west coast trip last season, but seemed buried under a host of other prospects in the organizational food chain. As the likes of Kyle Baun, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and others got called up and quickly sent back down, Rasmussen did what he’s always done — he waited, and he worked. 

“You’re always pushing for your chance to prove that you can play here,” Rasmussen said. “You’ve just got to battle hard, and even harder if you see a guy from Rockford going up. You see you might have a chance, too, if you’re playing good enough. You just have to be patient.”


All that patience — and all that work — has paid off. While many of those other call-ups had just brief stints in the NHL, Rasmussen appears poised to stay, especially in light of the wrist surgery that will sideline center Marcus Kruger for the rest of the regular season. 


It’s been a long road for Rasmussen. He’s already 25 years old, just two years younger than stalwart veterans Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In fact, he’s been waiting for the chance to put on a Hawks sweater for about 18 years. 


Turns out Rasmussen saw his first Hawks game at the United Center when he was 7 years old. In his lone visit to the United States, he and his dad and a friend flew to Chicago to catch a Hawks-Avalanche game and a Jordan-era Bulls game. Eighteen years later, he’s living out a dream. 


It was all worth the wait. 


“To come back here and play is just an awesome thing,” Rasmussen said.