On the Wings’ drafting of Lucas Raymond

Just before the Red Wings made Lucas Raymond their 4th overall pick, Sportnset’s Elliotte Friedman Tweeted that the Red Wings were throwing a “curveball” into the mix, and I’ll readily admit that I was surprised by the team’s decision to pick the 5’10,” 170-pound Frolunda Indians winger.

Not, “Holy shit, it’s Askarov!” surprised, but I had assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that the Wings were going to go up the middle, either drafting Cole Perfetti, Marco Rossi or Jamie Drysdale (if not Jake Sanderson). Instead, they pulled an old Hakan Andersson special, going for a diminutive Swede who’s been playing against men for with the Frolunda’s mighty developmental machine over the past two years.

The experts gave Raymond good marks, as noted by ESPN’s Chris Peters and Greg Wyshynski

4. Detroit Red Wings: Lucas Raymond, LW

Team: Frolunda (Sweden)
Ranking: 5 | Nationality: SWE
Age: 18 | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 170 | Shot: R
Stats: 33 GP, 4 G, 6 A

Scouting report: Raymond had 14 points in nine games in Sweden’s under-20 league. His one-on-one skills, skating and willingness to battle for his ice are plus traits. — Peters

Team fit: The Red Wings are in a deep rebuild, from the foundation up. Raymond can easily be a pillar in that reconstruction. An enormously talented winger who has drawn comparisons to Mitch Marner and Artemi Panarin, he is the kind of offensive player GM Steve Yzerman had in his core with the Lightning and clearly wants in his Detroit nucleus. Plus, let’s face it: Yzerman and draft general Kris Draper know their way around a talented Swedish player or two. — Wyshynski

Where Raymond is most likely to play in 2020-21: SHL

NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman

4. Detroit Red Wings – Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SWE)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 (International skaters)

The 18-year-old scored 10 points (four goals, six assists), had 32 shots on goal, and averaged 9:48 of ice time in 33 games in the Swedish Hockey League in 2019-20. Raymond (5-11, 170) has a nose for the net and has shown himself to be a tremendous asset on the power play and penalty kill. The right-hand shot is the type of player who doesn’t wait for the play to happen, but one who creates opportunities.

NHL.com analysis: The Red Wings need game-breakers, and Raymond has a skill set that’s been compared to Mitchell Marner. He already has experience playing against men and will impact Detroit’s power play and penalty kill when he arrives in North America.

USA Today’s Kyle Woodlief

4. Detroit Red Wings — RW Lucas Raymond. Little puck-handling wizard with deft hands who rarely misses chances near the cage. Highly skilled winger with tremendous hockey sense and super soft/fast hands that control the puck well in tight areas. Highly imaginative playmaker and always looking to set up plays for linemates, but needs to shoot more as he’s a true sniper in his own right. Fantastic vision and opens up the ice with surprising passes. Looked dynamic and poised in flashes playing against men in the SHL, but never received great ice time. Still managed to create lots of offensive opportunities with quick skating, turns and sharp cuts; slippery and draws lots of penalties. Makes smart and quick decisions, and is lethal on the power play with gives-and-goes and clever passes. Reads and anticipates beautifully and is always on the puck in prime scoring position. Small frame and can be overpowered along the defensive boards. 

The Score

Raymond’s numbers during the 2019-20 season with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League might not look great on paper, but he remains a special player with immense potential.

Playing on a great team in Sweden’s top league, Raymond averaged just under 10 minutes per game. He did get valuable time on the power play and also showed he can keep up in a professional league at such a young age.

His dynamic skill set and elite hockey sense are what placed him atop many prospect lists entering the draft. He’s excelled when suited up against players his own age in the past. With the SHL’s 2020-21 season underway, Raymond has seemingly matured his game in an expanded role.

And The Athletic’s Corey Pronman:

Raymond is a very interesting player. He can be a one-man highlight reel. He has a young career full of high points. His skill and playmaking are incredible. I’ve talked to NHL scouts who think he’s a no doubt top-five pick in the 2020 draft, and some who think he’s the clear third-best prospect.

I’ve also talked to some scouts who think the hype is a little over the top because of his size, his skating, his lack of physicality and his not blowing down the doors during the 2019-20 season.

I think both sides of those arguments are fair, and if someone didn’t have Raymond in their top five, I would think that is reasonable. I just see way too much talent to have him much lower. His stick and his brain are special. He could be a game-breaker if he gains an extra step. Even if he doesn’t, I could see him become a legit first-line wing/first power play forward in the NHL and a big part of the team that drafts him.

Once all was said and done…

And both Raymond and his new GM held their Zoom calls…

The Red Wings’ press weighed in, starting with Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels:

WXYZ’s Brad Galli filed a report about Raymond’s drafting as well:

Raymond himself was thrilled to be joining the team that’s still known as the “Svenskalaget” (Swedish team) by some of the older Swedish Wings fans, as noted by NHL.com’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika:

Lucas Raymond called it a “dream come true” to be selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the No. 4 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday.

“Legendary Swedes have played there,” Raymond said from his home in Gothenburg, Sweden. “So, I mean, it was extremely exciting, and I’m so happy and honored to be a part of the Detroit Red Wings.”

Now the Red Wings need him to follow in the footsteps of Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall and other Sweden-born picks who helped them win the Stanley Cup.

The forward from Frolunda of the Sweden Hockey League will be a key part of their rebuild. The 18-year-old represents their highest pick since 1990, when they selected forward Keith Primeau No. 3, and the highest pick in their history not born in Canada.

“We think he has all the tools to be an elite forward in the NHL,” general manager Steve Yzerman said.

The Red Wings’ website talked up Raymond’s resume in their official press release:

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today selected left wing Lucas Raymond in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Raymond has played his entire career so far with Frolunda HC, based out of his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. Raymond spent a majority of the 2019-20 campaign playing professionally in the Swedish Hockey League at the age of 17 – as the second-youngest player in the league – producing 10 points (4-6-10) and four penalty minutes in 33 games in his country’s highest professional league. He also racked up 14 points (3-11-14) for Frolunda’s under-20 team in the Swedish junior league, leading his team in points-per-game (1.56) in just nine appearances. He also picked up three points (2-1-3) in six games during the Champions League tournament, capturing a second-straight championship with Frolunda. Raymond made his professional debut at the age of 16, debuting for Frolunda on Dec. 28, 2018 and skating in 10 games during the 2018-19 season, scoring two goals. Raymond has also picked up two points (1-1-2) in four SHL games so far in 2020-21, which kicked off late last month.

A 5-foot-11, 170-pound winger, Raymond has also made a strong impression in international play. As one of the youngest players in the tournament, Raymond tallied four points (2-2-4) at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in a bronze-medal performance for Sweden. He previously starred for his country at a trio of international tournaments during the 2018-19 season, racking up eight points (4-4-8) in seven games as Sweden won gold at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, seven points (4-3-7) in six games to capture bronze at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and a team-leading seven points (5-2-7) in five games at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he was awarded a silver medal.

As a 16-year-old in 2018-19, Raymond finished second in the Swedish junior league with 48 points (13-35-48) in 37 games. In 54 total games at the under-20 level, Raymond has totaled 62 points (16-46-62), adding 84 points (38-46-84) in 56 games for Frolunda’s under-18 teams and racking up 151 points (71-80-151) over 72 games at the under-16 level between 2014-18. During his time with Frolunda’s junior and SHL teams, Raymond has been a frequent teammate of a pair of Red Wings prospects – center Elmer Soderblom (159th overall) and defenseman Gustav Berglund (177th overall), who were both drafted by Detroit in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Raymond continued his “dream come true” remarks while speaking with 97.1 the Ticket’s Will Burchfield

It was around 2:30 in the morning in Sweden when the Red Wings called Lucas Raymond’s name with the fourth overall pick in the draft. Raymond would have to be at practice with his team by 9.

Not that he was in any mood to sleep.

“It’s pretty late here right now, but it hasn’t been that big of a challenge staying up,” Raymond said. “I’ve been pretty excited all night. It’s been really fun and a special experience with my family here and friends.”

It would have been special no matter what. But for Raymond, the moment seemed to sparkle a little more because of his destination. No NHL team is beloved in Sweden like the Red Wings.

“A dream come true, especially a club like Detroit with a lot of good Swedes — legendary Swedes have played there,” Raymond said. “So it was extremely exciting and I’m so happy and honored to be a part of the Detroit Red Wings.”

And Raymond elaborated upon his point while speaking with MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Raymond visited Detroit while participating in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth and got a tour of Little Caesars Arena.

“I was really amazed,” he said. “It was huge, with great facilities. At that moment I didn’t really think I was going to end up there because I didn’t have my mind on any of those things, but I remember thinking to be able to play in one of these arenas one day would be awesome.”

Raymond is the Red Wings’ highest pick since 1990, when they selected center Keith Primeau third overall. He doesn’t know much about the team except from what he has seen on TV highlights.

“I think they have a lot of great, young guys and play a really fast game,” he said.

More than anything, he wants to help turn around a program that has missed the playoffs the past four seasons, a team that finished with by far the worst record in the NHL last season.

“I want to win as much as possible wherever I play and I think that’s the mindset I have and I think that’s the mindset you need to have,” Raymond said. “I think every player wants to win, whether they’re rebuilding or peaking, you always want to win and that’s why you play.”

Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman and director of amateur scouting Kris Draper spoke glowingly of Raymond’s skill set, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan

“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.”

The Athletic’s Max Bultman penned a superb subscriber-only article about Raymond’s development…

Last summer, in the World Under-18 Championship gold medal game against Russia, Raymond scored a hat trick, comprising the game’s first goal, the tying goal and the overtime winner, all against top 2020 draft goaltender prospect Yaroslav Askarov.

“Big games, he can rise to the occasion,” Frölunda general manager Frederik Sjöström told me this summer. “And he kind of likes to be the guy, he likes to have pressure on him to perform, and I kind of feel that he wants to be the guy who makes a difference.”

Raymond, on Tuesday, said big moments like that game are “fun games when it’s kind of all on the line” and “it’s a certain feeling in those type of games, and I really enjoy it.”

And certainly, that’s something the Red Wings liked about him, too. The gold medal game of a high-profile international tournament — in Raymond’s home nation, no less — was a high-pressure stage, against top-notch competition.

“To me, it means a lot, when you’re sitting there, you’re 17 years old, you’re playing in your home country in front of your home fans, and all of the sudden you raise your level, you raise your level of compete and the way you play and you rise to the occasion in a big game,” Draper said. “That puts a smile on your face when you’re watching it. … For me, you love big-game players, you love players that are able to elevate their play when the game is on the line, and when the game means the most. And going back to that gold medal game … that’s exactly what Lucas Raymond did, and it was impressive.”

The Detroit News’s John Niyo also noted that Raymond’s development has been aided by playing significant chunks of the past two-and-change seasons with the Frolunda Indians, considered one of the best professional hockey teams in Europe:

I wrote last week Raymond would be my choice at No. 4, in part because I thought he was still a bit undervalued, having spent last season playing a complementary role with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League, arguably the third-best league in the world behind the NHL and Russia’s KHL. 

While some of the other top prospects like Cole Perfetti and Marco Rossi posted eye-popping numbers in junior leagues this past winter, Raymond was a 17-year-old playing against men who were 10-15 years older than him. He finished with just four goals and six assists in 33 games, logging about 10 minutes of ice time a night.  

“And that’s tough,” said Kris Draper, running his first draft as the Red Wings’ director of amateur scouting. “You see a lot of your peers that you played against and these guys are putting up big numbers all around the world.” 

But then you consider how talented a kid has to be to get elevated to that level at age 16, which is what happened with Raymond in 2018-19 for a 10-game introduction to the men’s league. And you hear how the teenager used it as a growth opportunity, playing a third- or fourth-line role yet still managing to show flashes of his potential despite the sporadic shifts.   

“I think it has helped me a lot, not just on the ice but off the ice as well,” Raymond said, noting that among his current teammates is 38-year-old former NHLer Joel Lundqvist. “There’s a lot of those guys to look up to and really learn from. But also on the ice, it’s a different game. You really have to be strong in the battles around the boards, and really take what’s given as well.” 

When given a chance against his age group, he certainly showed what he can do. That SHL debut came after he’d dominated the Swedish juniors and just before he led his country to a gold medal at 2019 Under-18 World championships, finishing off a hat track with the overtime winner against Russia and goalie Yaroslav Askarov, who went 11th overall to Nashville on Tuesday. 

“I have a lot of good memories from that,” Raymond said. “It’s fun games when it’s kind of all on the line. Tight games, that’s where everybody steps up and it’s a certain feeling in those type of games, and I really enjoy it.” 

As the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted, the Wings will be very happy to leave Raymond to blossom in Frolunda

Given the uncertainty over when the NHL will start — commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday night that Jan. 1 is the target date — it’s likely Raymond will stay in Sweden in 2020-21. He’s in a great spot in Frolunda, and the Wings have local scouts who can check on his development.  Raymond said it’s helped him to play with and against men. Frolunda’s captain is Joel Lundqvist, brother of former Rangers standout Henrik Lundqvist. 

“It’s a different game,” Raymond said. “You really have to be strong in the battles around the board.” 

Raymond spoke briefly on the phone with general manager Steve Yzerman.

“He just wanted to congratulate me and let me know that he was excited to have me,” Raymond said. “And that we would talk this week.”

And with that, we’ll shift back to the “experts,” with The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler weighing in as to the Wings’ status as an “overtime winner” for having drafted Raymond 4th overall…

The Red Wings surprised me a year ago when they took Moritz Seider sixth-overall. So I was prepared to be surprised again, despite believing that one of Perfetti and Raymond were the right fit. So I have no qualms with this choice. Raymond can do things that no other prospects in the 2020 class can do with the puck on his stick and his ability to manoeuvre through traffic, adjust his feet and core to pressure, and shade in and out of open space to draw attention and make plays. He immediately leapfrogs both Seider and Filip Zadina in a class of his own atop the Red Wings’ already-strong prospect pool. He’s that good. You’re looking at a player who can drive a line, run a power play, and create through layers in the offensive zone. He may not score as many goals as some of the other prospects taken near the top of the draft, nor will he ever have the speed or the strength of some of them, but he’s got an ingenuity to his game that might be unrivalled. The risk is that Raymond’s floor is probably a little lower than a player like Perfetti. The reward is that if he can put it all together, his ceiling could be one of the game’s best wingers.

We get a caveat from The Athletic’s Corey Pronman

Pronman’s thoughts: In Raymond, the Wings get the fourth-best player on the board at No. 4. His skill level is right at the top of the draft with Lafreniere, he’s a game-breaker with his hands and playmaking. Due to his size and just fine skating, he will need time to physically develop, but there is no doubting the elite offense he could bring to the table. He becomes an extremely important part of the Wings’ rebuild and someone who could run their first power play with time.

Finally, in Swedish, the Frolunda Indians did congratulate their young sniper with a press release of their own; Raymond ironically told HockeyNews.se that he was starting to get a little irritated by the pre-draft preparations; Hockeysverige.se’s Uffe Bodin noted that the Wings may very well leave Raymond with Frolunda until he’s NHL-ready, and while Raymond knew before the draft that a 9 AM practice awaited him, as he told Aftonbladet’s Anton Johansson, we all know Raymond stayed up late for good reason.

All we get from Johansson for now, per his overnight-filed story, is this from Hakan Andersson, because the big news regarding Frolunda and the NHL in Sweden right now involves Henrik Lundqvist going to Washington:

“He is a great talent that is very exciting. A potential star in the NHL,” says Detroit’s longtime scout Håkan Andersson to Sportbladet.

I’ll keep my eye out for more from Raymond in the days to come. He’s bound to chat with the Swedish media sometime soon, maybe after he gets caught up on his sleep!

Published by

George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.