Lucas Raymond had an up-and-down season with Frolunda HC of the SHL last season, struggling with a chronic elbow injury that eventually required surgery.
As such, the Hockey News’s Steven Ellis suggests that Raymond’s explosion upon the NHL scoring scene is a bit of a surprise, and he asked a Swedish hockey scout why Raymond’s development shot upward:
If Raymond wasn’t scoring against men at an inferior level, why is he doing it in the NHL? Hockey development is a crazy thing. The amount a player improves from season to season at a young age, especially as they adjust to the pro game against older, stronger competition, is immense. Raymond proved he could be dominant against his own age group, so the experience against men was a good step forward.
While playing in Detroit’s Traverse City prospect tournament, Raymond impressed with a goal-per-game in three outings. Then, while playing in the top six during the pre-season, Raymond showed he could compete with the best and was often one of the biggest offensive catalysts for a team with few to choose from. So, instead of sending him back home or down to the AHL, Yzerman and Co. felt it was best to keep the young star playing with the big club.
Since then, Raymond has improved his game pace on a near-nightly basis. He’s adjusting quickly and effectively, and the Red Wings are better for it. The Red Wings shipped out usual top-line stalwart Anthony Mantha to Detroit last year, meaning the search for a new top-line forward to go along with Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin was needed. Jakub Vrana was supposed to be that guy, but shoulder surgery will keep him out for four months. So Raymond was the first real option to fill the spot, and he hasn’t disappointed.
“This isn’t a surprise,” a Swedish scout said about Raymond’s early season play. “The talent has always been there. He’s putting it together already on a team that doesn’t have much going for it now. Once they’re contenders, he’ll be such an important piece. He’s a human highlight-reel that just didn’t get the opportunities he needed to be more dominant in Sweden.”
Continued; as Ellis notes, Raymond isn’t that big (he’s listed at 5’11,” which is generous) and he isn’t that fast, but his hockey sense and ability to anticipate and react to what’s happening on the ice before the puck hits his stick blade are affording him the ability to make decisions at a lightning-quick pace, making up for any physical concerns.
Moreover, Raymond deserves credit for taking the opportunity afforded him in terms of ice time and running with it. Raymond didn’t get a lot of time with Frolunda last season–no young player gets a lot of ice time in the SHL without producing, which isn’t a surprise–but he’s maximized his opportunities here at the NHL level, and that’s damn impressive.