Glendale, Arizona. – Lucas Raymond has been dazzling for the Red Wings, sometimes making it seem like it was easy on his first NHL exposure.
Here’s an example of how Raymond adjusted to life in the best hockey league in the world.
He has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in his first 19 games, leading the rookies in the NHL. Raymond also had 18 points in 34 games for Frolunda HC in the Swedish Elite League last season before undergoing elbow surgery.
Raymond has a great opportunity to play with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi this season. He earned it with no sign of slowing down.
“He’s got a real mature game,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the fourth-overall 2020 first-round pick who is the favorite for the Calder Trophy (NHL Rookie of the Year).
Right off the points-per-game pace, Raymond would join the exclusive company if he were to continue as a rookie.
Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders) was the last player to do so and the only one in the past 15 years. In 2017-18, he amassed 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games.
Blashill had never seen Raymond perform live, but had watched a lot of videos. He noticed an aspect of Raymond’s game that seemed to translate into the NHL.
“His game was pretty complete right away,” Blashill said. “His game was probably transferable in the sense that he does it well and he doesn’t cheat for offense. He hasn’t had a huge learning curve that way.
“When young players come in from the American League you kind of know what to expect. It’s different than predicting in terms of score (in the Swedish League).”
Last season in Sweden, Raymond could not rely solely on his offensive qualities. He had to play well on both sides of the ice to save playing time.
“I know there are positives and negatives with young players playing in a men’s league,” said Blashill. “But generally (young SL players) come and have a good all round game. They had to do it because of the level they play.”
In junior hockey, and occasionally at the pro minor level, some dominant offensive players will overwhelm their opponents with their skills. They can cheat on offense and not focus on defense.
“They end up losing the coach’s confidence and end up in the minors,” Blashill said
Raymond has been different from the start.
“He creates chances without giving a lot. He’s been effective that way, and I see no reason why he can’t continue,” said Blashill.
Raymond mingled with Larkin and Bertuzzi, allowing the Wings to have a dangerous best scoring line.
Each player brings a dynamic that complements his teammates. He produced a consistent offense.
“Dylan is a puck transporter,” said Blashill. “You add a player like Tyler, a talented chess forward who brings a physique, and Lucas, who is a real brain player.
“We were hoping that this could work and that each piece would complement itself in some way.”
On Monday in Columbus, Raymond jumped on a turnaround near the Columbus net, whirled around and sort of found Larkin through the lunge with a wide open net for an easy goal.
Larkin was impressed with the way Raymond and fellow rookie defenseman Moritz Seider adjusted to the NHL.
“You could tell from the first day they got here that they were playing professional hockey (Raymond in Sweden, Seider in the AHL and in Sweden),” said Larkin. “They know what professional hockey is.
“Lucas is dangerous. He’s someone he’s amazing to play with because he’s going to play games. He’s cunning and he’s going to give you the puck.
Raymond’s work ethic and thoughtfulness have been noticed by Wings veterans.
“His hockey IQ is remarkable,” said forward Sam Gagner. He’s one of those guys who’s always in the right place.
The fact that Raymond – and Seider – were able to develop their game away from the NHL seems to have been an advantage for both young players.
The Wings organization has always preferred to let young players marinate in the minor pro or junior ranks.
“We want them to survive when they get here, we want them to thrive,” Blashill said. “We want to make sure the guys have earned their place in preparation. We don’t want to rush anyone here. We want them to be impact players when they get here.”
Once in the Wings, they continue to be tested and pushed.
“We want them to be great players, not great players,” Blashill said. “We will continue to push them to be great players.”