Dayton Rasmussen is an incoming freshman goalie at the University of Denver. A native of Eden Prairie, Minn., he spent one year with the Colorado Thunderbirds midget program before advancing to the junior ranks, spending two seasons in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks, Tri-City Storm, and Chicago Steel. Rasmussen was part of two consecutive Clark Cup-winning teams and also took home some more hardware with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge last December. At 6’1” and 203 pounds, he was ranked sixth among North American goalies by Central Scouting for the 2017 NHL Draft, and will get another crack at being drafted next year. Mile High Hockey talked to Rasmussen about his junior career, preparing for college life, and the state of youth hockey in Colorado.
MHH: All right, so what have you been up to this summer?
DR: I took a little time off after the season, then just spent the past four weeks taking two classes and training at Denver.
MHH: You’re from Minnesota, but you have some hockey background in Colorado; you played for the Thunderbirds and now you’re off to DU. How do you feel about the hockey culture in the state and at the school from what you’ve picked up?
DR: When I was with the Thunderbirds, I noticed the hockey culture in the state, and we were top 3 in the country all season, so there was definitely a lot of talent coming out of Colorado. A lot of retired Avalanche players have kids that have played for the AAA team, so they helped too, and there’s a lot of value in that.
At DU I noticed a lot of respect for the players, coaches, and program as a whole. There are high expectations, being that they won the national championship last season. They do a really good job of creating a family environment and professional culture.
MHH: Denver’s had a pretty good track record with goalies recently, from Adam Berkhoel and Peter Mannino to Juho Olkinuora and Sam Brittain and now Tanner Jaillet. What do you think it says about the program and what do you think you can add to this legacy?
DR: It speaks highly of the coaching staff. When I was recruited in three years ago, the goalie coach and I had a really good connection, and I could tell that he knew a lot about the position and did a good job. The new goalie coach, Joe Howe, he used to work with my goalie coach back home, and the times I’ve skated with him it’s been great. I’m really looking forward to continue working with him in the future.
I’m hoping to learn a lot from Tanner, be a good teammate, and push each other. When it’s my time to step in, I hope to bring the team to another national championship and keep the legacy going.
MHH: Going back to your junior career for a minute, you had a pretty successful one. .910 save percentage in the USHL and you were part of two Clark Cup teams. How do you think your time in juniors has gotten you ready for the next level?
DR: During my time in juniors, I not only grew as a player, but also as a person off the ice. I tried to learn as much as I could from game and practice situations, and also other players who I knew were going to go on and have successful careers. After playing about 30 games in my USHL career, that’s when I really felt comfortable and knew I would be ready for college. I was lucky enough to work with two really good goalie coaches in Tri-City and Chicago.
MHH: You also got an opportunity to skate for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge, where you put up a good performance against Canada East and eventually took home the gold. What was wearing the Stars and Stripes for an event like that like?
DR: It was a huge honor, and there’s nothing that even compares to wearing the USA jersey. I had played in the Hlinka and the 5 Nations Tournament. We brought home silver in the 5 Nations, and it was awesome to be a part of a team that won gold.
MHH: You attended the NHL Draft Combine as well, and although you weren’t able to partake in all of the tests due to injury, you excelled in the ones you did do, ranking first in the bench press and second in the vertical jump. How was that experience?
DR: It was a great experience. I was bummed I couldn’t participate in all the tests. That decision was made by Central Scouting, and I respect it. I had a lot of fun, and knew a lot of guys there. We were treated great. Definitely, a part of my career I will remember for a long time.
MHH: All right, last question. Scout yourself. What are some of the strengths of your game and what do you feel you need to work on at the college level?
DR: I play a boxy athletic style. My footwork and athleticism are definitely the stronger parts of my game. In college, I’m hoping to improve on playing the puck more, reading plays coming out of the neutral zone, and making sure I keep my hands active and out in front of me.