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'A dream come true': First pick Lucas Raymond honored to follow Red Wings' Swede tradition

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — For Lucas Raymond, it could not have gone more perfectly.

The Swedish forward watched so many legendary Swedes play for the Red Wings when he was growing up, and Tuesday Raymond joined the organization as the team's first-round pick, the fourth overall selection.

"It was exciting, a dream come true," said Raymond during a Zoom call with the media Tuesday, which was 2:30 a.m. in Sweden (he had a 9 a.m. practice later). "Especially a club like Detroit, with a lot of good Swedes, legendary Swedes, have played there. So it was extremely exciting and I'm happy and honored to be part of the Detroit Red Wings."

The Red Wings had needs everywhere — forward, center, goaltender — when Tuesday's Entry Draft began.

They chose to address forward, picking Raymond, the Swedish left winger, who has played pro-level hockey in the Swedish Elite League.

Raymond, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound winger, is playing for Frolunda in the SEL, where he has one goal and one assist in four games.

Sweden's Lucas Raymond, left, takes a shot on Finland's Justus Annunen during the bronze medal game of the world junior championships between Finland and Sweden in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Picking fourth overall, the Wings had several options, said general manager Steve Yzerman, but Raymond was the clear choice.

"There were several good options for us at that pick, but ultimately we chose Lucas," Yzerman said. "What we liked about him, he's a very intelligent, highly skilled player who is very competitive. We think he fits in with the type of players we want to build (around)."

The Wings, said Yzerman, are likely to keep Raymond in Sweden, given the uncertainty of when the NHL season will begin and what it'll look like.

"I would assume he'll play the entire season in Frolunda," Yzerman said. "More realistically, the 2021-22 season is a possibility (to arrive in North America) but again, I don't want to be held to that, or a timeline. He's a young man we want to play and bring over here."

It was Raymond's instincts on the ice that stood out, also, with director of amateur scouting Kris Draper.

"His hockey sense," said Draper, of what stood out about Raymond. "Every time we went and watched him play, there were a lot of comments amongst our group of how smart of a hockey player he was. That's something very high on our list of prospects that we want to draft, we want to be a smart, intelligent, competitive team.

"We think Lucas Raymond has a lot of qualities that we look for in a prospect."

Playing for Frolunda, one of the better clubs in Sweden, and playing against men older, Raymond feels has helped him on and off the ice.

"It has helped me a lot," Raymond said. "Not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. With guys like (teammate) Joel Lundqvist (former NHL player who is the twin brother of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist) on our team, a lot of those guys, to look up to and really learn from.

"Also, on the ice it's a different game. You really have to be strong in the battles around the boards and take what is given."

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Draper felt the experience last season of being a 17-year-old on a men's team was a significant learning experience.

"It was an adjustment, adversity, something probably that was tough on him," Draper said. "But with that said, you have a 17- or 18-year-old prospect that obviously handled it very well and has come out and probably learned a lot, and that's what we've seen over the last two months.

"Not only has he developed as a hockey player, but he handled the adverse situation that he was in last year."

Raymond had an inkling the Wings were interested and could draft him — but he wasn't going to take anything for granted.

"I kind of had an idea but I didn't want to get my hopes high, too much on any team," Raymond said. "I just tried to stay as neutral as possible because I know anything can happen in a draft. But I kind of had an idea, but not certain.

"When they called my name, I was extremely excited and there are many different feelings and emotions at the same time."

Last season, as a teenager playing against men in Frolunda, Raymond had 10 points in 33 games, while also learning how to play a 200-foot game, and especially paying attention to the defensive end.

Raymond has consistently been one of the top five to 10 picks in most draft projections from the start of the season.

Craig Button, the TSN draft analyst, has been a big fan of Raymond's overall skills. 

"There is no play that is impossible when he has the puck," said Button, during a recent draft preview. "Because he is so smart, when it appears he may be trapped is actually when he may be most dangerous, because he is so attuned to the possibilities. I see him as a number one playmaking... winger in the mold of Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner."

There are a lot of strengths to Raymond's game.

Scouts raved about Raymond's speed and playmaking abilities, along with his maturity off the ice.

At the 2019 under-18 world championships Raymond scored three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as Sweden defeated Russia in the gold medal game.

Raymond, who was the youngest player for Sweden at the 2020 world junior championships, had two goals and two assists for the bronze-medal winning Swedes.

At this point, only his lack of physical size makes him a possible candidate to remain in Sweden at least through this season.

"I don't really know," said Raymond, as to if the Wings will bring him to North America this season . "I will talk with the Wings and see what they think and talk with them and figure something out."

Raymond toured Little Caesars Arena last season when his Swedish national team was in town for a tournament.

"I was amazed," Raymond said. "It was huge, with great facilities."

Going to a team that is in the midst of a rebuild doesn't bother Raymond, who believes the Wings have the nucleus for a good team.

"I watched a lot of those players' highlights and stuff like that and they have a lot of great young guys," Raymond said. "They play a fast game and from what I've seen, they play a lot of fun hockey.

"I want to win as much as possible, wherever I play. That's the mindset I have. Every player wants to win, whether there's rebuilding or peaking, you always want to win."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan