Sweden's Lucas Raymond flies under radar, similar to Steve Yzerman's draft season
The similarities between the NHL draft seasons for Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman and Lucas Raymond could lead to another Swede playing a large role in Detroit's first major rebuild since Yzerman was selected fourth overall in 1983.
Yzerman flew under the radar in his two seasons with the powerhouse Peterborough Petes, who made the Ontario Hockey League playoffs for 27 consecutive years, two years longer than Detroit's 25-year postseason from 1991-2016.
Playing on a four-line team with a history of producing two-way players like Bob Gainey, Craig Ramsey and Doug Jarvis under defensive-minded coaches like Scotty Bowman, Roger Neilson and Mike Keenan, Yzerman doubled his goal total to 42 goals from 21 in his second year but still ranked only 32nd in OHL scoring with limited ice time on a line with Bob Errey and Scott McLellan under coach Dick Todd.
"Four lines was the trademark of the Petes over the years," said Errey, a longtime Yzerman friend and current TV color analyst with the Pittsburgh Penguins. "Steve was banged up a bit in his second year and the target of every team. We were competitive but we knew we had to share ice time even on the power play."
Raymond knows all about sharing ice time on a good defensive team.
The six-foot, 175-pound winger received only 9:38 of ice time per game this year as a 17-year-old with the five-time champion Frolunda Indians, a stacked team which rolled four lines of older, NHL-aged players in the Swedish Hockey League.
He had 10 points in 33 games and was a healthy scratch for one game. Against players his own age, he had 14 points in nine games with Frolunda's U20 team in the SuperElit league and had four points in seven games with Sweden's bronze-medal winning team at the U20 world championships in the Czech Republic.
"Growing up, I was always the go-to guy with every team I played on and got to play huge minutes," Raymond said. "Coming into this year and not getting the same role in a men's league was extremely valuable for me. You have to really fight for a spot and earn every minute of ice time. That was a big lesson."
Raymond said he was fortunate to learn a lot of lessons on and off the ice from players like 38-year-old captain Joel Lundqvist, the twin brother of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, an ex-NHLer who played three years with the Dallas Stars and the 11th-leading scorer in SHL history with 436 points in 773 games.
"Joel is the most impressive player I've ever learned from," said Raymond, now 18 and working out daily and skating three or four times a week in his hometown in Gothenburg during the coronavirus pandemic.
"He's a talented player, a great leader and we've become good friends. He taught me about developing a defensive game and how a four-line team can be successful. Our fourth line could've been a first line on most of the other teams in the SHL."
Raymond's statistics don't stack up with the other top-ranked forwards (Rimouski's Alexis Lafreniere, Sudbury's Quinton Byfield and Germany's Tim Stutzle) heading into the 2020 NHL draft lottery on June 26. A second draft lottery will be held if one of the non-playoff teams earn a spot among the top three draft positions.
If the Red Wings eventually fall to fourth spot in the draft and Lafreniere, Byfield and Stutzle are off the board, they may consider Raymond who has flown under the radar like Yzerman and whose highlight-reel goals and creativity with the puck have been compared to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.
"It would be a dream come true to be selected but any NHL team but especially the Red Wing with their history of Swedes," said Raymond, who got a tour of Little Caesars Arena when the Swedish national junior team held a tryout summer camp in Plymouth last summer. "(Henrik) Zetterberg, (Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Tomas) Holmstrom. I can only imagine playing in front of so many fans there."
Raymond's other Detroit connection centers on Sweden's Jorgen Pettersson, who helped eliminate the Red Wings in Yzerman's rookie season in 1984 by scoring all three goals in a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena. Earlier that season, Yzerman fought Pettersson in the first of the captain's nine fights in 22 years.
Raymond and Pettersson are both from Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden behind Stockholm, and Pettersson's No. 19 was retired by Frolunda after averaging 32 goals in five years with the Blues. Pettersson also presented Raymond with an award after Raymond was named most valuable player in a junior tournament.
"He (Pettersson) was a very skilled player with great vision and huge offensive impact," Raymond said.
The same can be said of Raymond, who also had a flair for the dramatic like Pettersson with three goals including the game-winner in overtime to beat Russia 4-3 for Sweden's first title at the world under-18 championships last year.
"If you look at the stats and ice time, it looks like I didn't create something," Raymond said. "But if you watch me play, the times I got on the power play and earned a regular shift or extra big-time minutes, you'll understood it more. I'll do everything I can, every practice, every game to make the lineup and be a productive player."
Lucas Raymond profile
Who: Lucas Raymond
What: No. 4-ranked European player in the NHL Central Scouting final rankings
Team: Frolunda (Sweden)
Stats: Four goals, six assists, 10 points in 33 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League this year
Family business: Raymond's mother, Cecilia, is a personal trainer and nutrition coach with her company NatureFitness in Gothenburg. "She helps me out, for sure," said Lucas Raymond, whose older brother Hugo had 52 points in 26 games with Division 3 Goteborgs this year. "I try not to eat much red meat. Some things are good for you and some things aren't so good for you."