Just one games to go in the regular season and Metallurg is the third seed of the Eastern Conference. The team led by Josef Jandac still has chances to start the playoffs with the home rink advantage. Magnitogorsk’s third scorer is Dennis Rasmussen, with 45 (13+32) points in 60 games.
Recently, the Ural team had an exciting game against Ak Bars Kazan, who won with a 5:4 score. Probably, the game was a good repetition before the start of the postseason. “Both teams had chances to win,” Rasmussen recalls. “I hoped that we won this game, it was tight, with a lot of scoring chances on both sides. Unfortunately, the opponent scored the very last goal. It was a fun game to play; we are getting closer to the playoffs, you could feel that the game was crucial, that’s why this game was really fun. We can meet Ak Bars in the playoffs, but for now, it’s better to think on a game-by-game basis.”
The 28-years-old Swedish forward is at his first season in the KHL. He is delighted with his new experience. “I like it here, the coaches trust me, I have a significant role while playing in an excellent team with great teammates. Everything is good now, but the best is yet to come,” Rasmussen adds meaning the playoffs.
With Metallurg at 82 points in the standings, chances are high that the Urals will meet Ak Bars or Avangard in the playoffs first round. Quite a test at the very start of the postseason. “In any case, you’re going always to face excellent teams in the playoffs,” Rasmussen admits. “We understand that all can end fast, but no one considers this option. Am I feeling pressure? I am always feeling pressure when I play, but my inner pressure is higher than anything else.”
The move to Russia isn’t always easy for newcomers, and Rasmussen was no exception. “The preseason was very long,” Rasmussen recalls. “It was hard, but from the other hand, even if I played many seasons in North America, I was already well acquainted with the larger ice surface. Therefore the adaptation wasn’t very hard. I feel great here, thanks to my coaches and teammates. I wasn’t playing a lot, therefore, I was oriented towards getting back to Europe so to have another role in the team and play more with the puck. Magnitogorsk offered me a two-year contract, and I am delighted to be here in the KHL.”
Just as most of the players, Rasmussen always looks never too satisfied with his own game, always trying to get the best out of himself for the team. “My season has been okay so far. However, I will never be happy with it. There are always a lot of things where I can improve. However, the main goal now is to win games; this is why we play hockey after all.”
The Swedish forward is more than satisfied with being part of a team with not only excellent players but also with winning traditions. “I’m very glad to be here; we have a lot of experienced players. I already knew someone of them. Sergei Mozyakin and Vasily Koshechkin can decide the outcome of any game. I hope that all the team will be able to do the extra mile in the playoffs.”
For newcomers and international players, in particular, it’s essential to find some teammates that can help you, especially in the first days in the new environment. Rasmussen found them in Nikolai Kulemin and Maksim Matushkin. “Kulemin played many years in the NHL, he knows well the English language,” Rasmussen explains. “Plus, he’s from Magnitogorsk himself, and he can help me on both off and the ice. His help is precious.” Maksim Matushkin spent most of his career in Sweden (with stints in Slovakia and Finland). With him, Rasmussen can talk in his language. “Matushkin talks both Russian and Swedish, this also helps a lot. Earlier, we played together in some Swedish junior national team; he’s a great guy and player. He’s also at his first season in the KHL, and he’s doing good as well. Before signing with Metallurg, I already knew that he was going to be part of the team, and this helped me in taking a decision.”
It’s pretty evident that Rasmussen is happy with being part of the team, even if he didn’t sign in either Moscow or St. Petersburg: “All coaches are good here with me, they give me a lot of time on ice and trust,” Rasmussen says about his experience in Magnitogorsk. “I’m thankful for the opportunity that I got here, to prove myself in a new reality and to produce. There are no problems with the language, and we are always traveling anyway. I feel I have everything I need here, we play a lot of games, and there is not too much time to do things. All you need is a good place to live, some great guys in the team, and a nice rink. We have all that we need. The situation is really good, and it’s hard to compare cities anyway.”
Before Rasmussen, Metallurg didn’t have many Swedish players. Mika Hannula had one game for Magnitka in 2010, while Anders Eriksson played there in the 2005/2006 season before the establishment of the KHL. “It’s good to have had such two good players here before me,” Rasmussen explains. “My Russian agent told me some good things about the city and the team, plus Maxim signed before me, so I was happy to sign here, and I think I took the right decision.”
Dennis Rasmussen was born on July 3, 1990, in Vasteras, Sweden.
Playing career: 2008-2011, VIK Vasteras, Sweden; 2011-2014, 2018, Vaxjo Lakers, Sweden; 2014-2016, Rockford IceHogs, AHL; 2015-2017, Chicago Blackhawks, NHL; 2017-2018, Anaheim Ducks; 2017-2018, San Diego Gulls, AHL; 2018-today, Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
Achievements: World Junior Championship Bronze Medal, 2010; World Championship Bronze Medal, 2014; Sweden Championship, 2018.