Lucas Raymond: Prospect Profile

Lucas Raymond celebrates goal with Frolunda teammates
By Jeff Watters

November 30, 2020

Lucas Raymond is the Detroit Red Wings’ #1 prospect. The elite playmaker is now in his second season with Frölunda HC of the SHL and has been a huge part of the first-place team’s success. It won’t be long before the Swede is contributing at the NHL level.

Lucas Raymond was the Red Wings’ first pick in the 2020 virtual NHL draft. Unlike the previous year, there were no curveballs thrown when the Red Wings announced their pick. Raymond is an extremely talented winger with arguably the most talent of any other 2020 draftee not named Alexis Lafrenière. The Red Wings had been enamored with Raymond for some time, and his strong performance in the SHL leading up to the October 6th draft did nothing but confirm what they already knew: he was their guy at 4.

For the second consecutive year, the Red Wings had nabbed a player whose role had been limited in their draft year. Through no fault of their own, both Raymond and Moritz Seider had played supporting roles for very strong men’s teams in the SHL and DEL, respectively. While some GMs may lack the conviction to bank on flashes of talent shown in limited viewings, Yzerman confidently made both picks. 

Lucas Raymond is a highly skilled Swede who immediately became the Red Wings’ most talented prospect. In the 6 weeks that have followed the draft, he’s done nothing but solidify his spot atop a list of talented future Wings.

The Formative Years

Lucas Raymond has had a long track record of success. He’s played in the Frölunda organization since he was a point-per-game player on their U16 Div. 1 team as a 12-year-old. At 14, Raymond had 11 goals and 21 points in 18 J18 Allsvenskan games, and at 15 had already dominated the J18 ranks and debuted in the J20 SuperElit. In his draft-minus-1 season, Raymond had 13 goals and 48 points in 37 games in the top junior league in Sweden. He’s a player who has excelled while consistently lining up against older competition.

Raymond’s international showings have been maybe the most impressive of all. His ability to play at a high level on the world’s biggest stage was something that impressed the Red Wings and many other teams. 

In 2018, Raymond had 5 goals and 7 points in 5 games as Sweden won a silver medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He was one of the younger players in the U18 tournament at 16-years-old but finished the tournament 4th in scoring.

In the 2019 U18 World Championships, Raymond scored a hat trick in the gold medal game as the Swedes won their first-ever gold medal at the event. This came against a Russian team that featured fellow 2020 1st round pick Yaroslav Askarov between the pipes.

For the past few seasons, any mention of a Swedish junior national team wouldn’t be complete without an acknowledgment of the terror twins, Raymond and teammate Alexander Holtz (NJD). Raymond has had a reputation as a big-game player and has continuously lived up to those expectations.

His junior career was nothing short of spectacular, and at just 16-years-old Raymond debuted in Sweden’s top tier professional league, the SHL. Averaging just 7:58 of ice time in 10 games for the men’s team, Raymond managed to score twice and hold his own. He was very clearly ready for the challenge after dominating the junior ranks but was not yet going to be given a full-time role with the club. Raymond was called-up three separate times in 2018-19, scoring his first two professional goals in back-to-back games on Dec. 28th and 30th 2018.

The Draft Year

If you’re someone who scouts the stat line, you wouldn’t have been very impressed with Raymond’s 2019-20 SHL season. With just 4 goals and 10 points in 33 games for Frölunda, his offensive output was rather pedestrian. 

Raymond was impressive at the 2020 World Juniors, however. In a tournament dominated by 19 year-olds, a 17-year-old Raymond had 2 goals and 4 points in 7 games and looked excellent. Most yet-to-be-drafted players have a tough time at the World Juniors, but Raymond’s experience against older competition showed. He was a big part of a high-powered Swedish offense and put together another strong international performance.

Raymond also had 14 points in 9 J20 SuperElit games sandwiched in between SHL duty in 2019-20. This output should have been expected but is worth noting as part of the larger picture that was Raymond’s draft season. Given big minutes, he was still dominating his peers.

With the men’s team, Raymond was not given an opportunity to put up eye-popping offensive numbers for Frölunda. He played less than 10 minutes per game for the defending SHL champions. The team was/is a powerhouse, and players in Raymond’s position had two choices: sulk or make the most of your opportunities. Raymond chose the latter and this is a big reason he was a top 4 selection in the draft. 

He spent little time on the power play and didn’t see much 5v5 ice time, but when he was on the ice he was noticeable. Whether it was showing his elite hands or his ability to weave through tight areas with his skating and edgework, Raymond’s talent was evident. You would see glimpses of his quick release, his decision making, and his precision passing. It was clear Raymond was no one-dimensional player. Nearly every time he was on the ice, he showed you something.

This is not easy to do. It’s not easy to be sitting for long periods of time and then simply “turn it on” and play at a high level. This rings even more true for younger players who understandably want to make an impression. Few have the maturity and mental fortitude to stay within themselves and not try to hit a home run every shift. Raymond’s ability to remain focused, sharp, and effective while playing just over 3 minutes per period was something that couldn’t be ignored.

Raymond’s positive attitude and leave-it-all-on-the-ice mantra solidified the belief he was still a top 5 talent, despite the offensive output. His high level of competitiveness and willingness to do whatever it took to win made him that much more desirable. Did his numbers cause him to drop on any other draft boards? Surely, yes. Was that a very short-sighted view of the player? Absolutely. 

Raymond’s track record of success and tool kit could not be ignored. As we know, recency bias is real, but this was not a player who was struggling against his peers while being given every opportunity to thrive. Lucas Raymond was suiting up alongside the very best Swedish players not in the NHL. Thankfully, he wasn’t penalized for this. The Red Wings got a helluva player at 4th overall.

Showing More in the SHL

As the 2020 draft approached, many wondered if the performance of those playing in Europe would affect how NHL teams evaluated their draft board. Moreover, would that be fair to those not able to play? Could Lucas Raymond’s hot start shoot him up draft boards past players who had been out of action since the pandemic hit?

When this question was asked to Steve Yzerman during a Zoom press conference, he quickly dismissed the notion. He trusted that the looks he and the scouting team got in preparation for a summer draft gave them enough to go on.

As it turns out, Raymond’s hot start did nothing but confirm what the Red Wings were already thinking. I suppose it didn’t hurt that he had gained about 18 lbs, looked even more confident, and was getting top 6 minutes for Frölunda. Regardless, the Wings were clearly set on Raymond. 

His hot start to the 2020-21 season has been welcome, nonetheless. In a bigger role for Frölunda, Raymond has already surpassed last season’s 10 points with 5 goals and 12 points in just 19 games. He’s second on the team in scoring begins Henrik Lundqvist’s twin brother, Joel, and has averaged around 14.5 minutes per game. Raymond has also seen more time on the power play. His response? He leads the team with 7 points. 

Raymond’s 56.8 CF% (Corsi For Pct. via SvengelskaHockey) through 19 games is excellent as well. He’s been a possession driver, and he’s been doing it as a winger (more on that later). This isn’t surprising at all as Raymond has continued to be a relentless forechecker who gives the opposition no time to think in their zone or in the neutral zone. This is his game.

Another thing that has stood out so far in 2020-21 is Raymond’s lethal wrister has looked…even better. This is a development that Wings fans should be thrilled about. With the strength Raymond added over the summer, his release seems quicker and his movements more mature. He has an NHL shot. He’s been able to fire missiles toward the net while keeping his feet moving and changing the angle of his release. Take a look at this:

A defender gets a stick on the shot here, but Raymond’s speed, release, and confidence to drive to the middle and take this to the net himself is impressive. Whenever a player like Raymond is able to take a strength of their game to the next level, it’s exciting. 

I don’t think Steve Yzerman and company could’ve hoped for a better start to Raymond’s season. This truly has been the best possible outcome. He’s been one of very few 2020 top draftees that have been able to play in games this season, and he has already taken noticeable steps forward in his development. 

What Will Raymond Ultimately Become?

Lucas Raymond was the correct pick at 4th overall this past October. The Wings, being in desperate need of elite talent, chose the most talented prospect on the board. Not only that, they selected one of the most competitive forwards in the draft. With no glaring weaknesses in Raymond’s game, what should we expect from him when he arrives in Detroit?

Raymond projects to be a first-line forward; a player who you can lean on to produce. Raymond will be the best playmaker on the roster and would look great paired up with Anthony Mantha or Filip Zadina.

As mentioned, Raymond should also be expected to score. Although he has looked to pass first in past seasons, he is gaining confidence in his shot (as he should – it’s a real weapon) and has been letting it rip this season.

Raymond should play in all situations for Detroit. Whether he ultimately plays on the first or second line, it doesn’t really matter. He’s going to produce. If Raymond gives you 70 points annually, that’s amazing. Could he be an 80-90 point guy? We’ll have to see. Either way, Raymond is going to be the best player the Red Wings have had in some time.

One thing I do think the Red Wings need to consider (and this depends on what happens in subsequent drafts): Can you turn Lucas Raymond into a centre?

There’s nothing about Raymond’s game that makes me think he can’t be an effective NHL centre. He’s a bit smaller than your prototypical centre, sure, but he has shown the ability to be a responsible 2-way forward who can backcheck with the best of them. Of course, there is far more that goes into a positional change like this. But if the Red Wings are willing to give Robbie Fabbri a shot this season, don’t you think they could do the same with their top prospect? A player whose hockey IQ is off the charts and has proven to be responsible at both ends of the ice?

With the abundance of wingers in the Red Wings system, moving Lucas Raymond to centre is an intriguing option. It’s been done with other young forwards around the league, most recently with fellow Swede, Elias Pettersson. It’s an option the Wings would be wise to explore and could be a game-changer.

Final Thoughts

Barring more outbreaks across the globe, Lucas Raymond will lead the Swedes into battle as the World Juniors commence in Edmonton, AB on Christmas Day. The Swedish national team will be incredibly fun to watch as the Red Wings will be well-represented. All eyes will be on Raymond, however, as he attempts to put another international medal on his resume.

Looking beyond the World Juniors, Raymond will return to Frölunda for the remainder of their 2020-21 season. When should we expect to see him in Detroit? It could be as early as the beginning of the 2021-22 season, and I would assume no later than the beginning of 2022-23.

Make no mistake. When Raymond is ready, he’ll get the call. Long gone are the days of over-ripening prospects. The Wings proved as much last season when we learned they were planning on calling up a still 18-year-old Moritz Seider. If Raymond shows the Wings enough this season, you can believe he’ll be in Detroit next year.

The addition of Raymond to the Red Wings’ top six will be big. When it happens, I believe we’ll start to see glimpses of a team that could be contending sooner than people think. Adding an elite playmaker to a group that includes Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Filip Zadina, and Tyler Bertuzzi won’t turn the Red Wings into a playoff team, but will be a step in the right direction.

Lucas Raymond will need to be a key piece of the Red Wings rebuilding efforts if they are to contend any time soon. I think he will be. His combination of elite skill, hockey IQ, and competitiveness could allow him to become the best Red Wing of the 2020s. Even if he’s in the conversation, that’s an absolute win.

Featured Image: Adam Ihse / TT

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