Lucas Raymond has brought mature, complete game to Red Wings
Glendale, Ariz. — Lucas Raymond has been dazzling for the Red Wings, at times making it look easy in his first exposure to the NHL.
Here's an example of how well Raymond has adjusted to life in the world's best hockey league.
He has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in his opening 19 games, leading NHL rookies. Raymond also had 18 points in 34 games with Frolunda HC in the Swedish Elite League last season before being shut down by elbow surgery.
Raymond is getting a great opportunity playing with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi this season. He's earned it with no signs of slowing down.
"He has a real mature game," coach Jeff Blashill said of the 2020 first-round pick, fourth overall, who is the front-runner for the Calder Trophy (NHL rookie of the year).
Just off the point-per-game pace, Raymond would be joining exclusive company if he were to keep it up as a rookie.
Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders) was the last player to do so and the only one in the last 15 years. In 2017-18 he had 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games.
Blashill had never seen Raymond play live, but watched a lot of video. He noticed one aspect of Raymond's game that seemed to translate to the NHL.
"His game was pretty complete right away," Blashill said. "His game was probably transferable in the sense he does it right and he doesn't cheat for offense. He didn't have a huge learning curve that way.
"When young players are coming over from the American League, you kind of know what to expect. It's different to predict in terms of scoring (in the Swedish League)."
Last season in Sweden, Raymond couldn't just depend on his offensive skills. He needed to play well on both ends of the rink to earn playing time.
"I know there are positives and negatives with young players playing in a men's league," Blashill said. "But, generally, (younger SL players) they come over and have a good, complete game. They've been forced to have that because of the level they play at."
In junior hockey, and on occasion in the minor pro level, some dominant offensive players will overwhelm opponents with their skill. They can cheat for offense, and not concentrate on the defensive end.
"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 much. He's been efficient that way, and I don't see a reason he can't continue it," Blashill said.
Raymond has meshed with Larkin and Bertuzzi, enabling the Wings to have a dangerous top scoring line.
Each player brings a dynamic that complements his linemates. It has produced consistent offense.
"Dylan is a transporter of the puck," Blashill said. "You add a player like Tyler, a talented forechecker and who brings a physicality, and Lucas, who is a real cerebral player.
"We had hoped it could work out and each piece kind of complements each other."
Monday in Columbus, Raymond pounced on a turnover near the Columbus net, whirled and somehow found Larkin across the slot with a largely open net for an easy goal.
Larkin has been impressed with the way Raymond, and fellow rookie defenseman Moritz Seider, have adapted to the NHL.
"You could see from the first day they got here they've been playing pro hockey (Raymond in Sweden, Seider in the AHL and Sweden)," Larkin said. "They know what pro hockey is all about.
"Lucas is dangerous. He’s someone that is incredible to play with because he’s going to make plays. He’s crafty and he’s going to get the puck to you.”
Raymond's work ethic and thinking ability has been noticed by Wings veterans.
"His hockey IQ stands out,” forward Sam Gagner said. “He’s one of those guys who’s kind of always in the right spot."
The fact Raymond — and Seider — were able to grow their game away from the NHL appears to have been a benefit for both young players.
It's always been a preference of the Wings' organization 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 guys have earned their spot from a readiness standpoint. We don't want to rush anybody here. We want them to be impact players when they get here."
Once they get to the Wings, they continue to be tested and pushed.
"We want them to be great players, not good players," Blashill said. "We'll keep pushing them to be great players."