| Detroit Free Press
Steve Yzerman on why Lucas Raymond fits Detroit Red Wings rebuild
Steve Yzerman talks about Detroit Red Wings draft pick Lucas Raymond on Oct. 6, 2020.
The Detroit Red Wings mined a country that has brought them incredible success to make their first pick in the 2020 draft.
Lucas Raymond, a Swedish winger who shoots right, was general manager Steve Yzerman’s choice at fourth overall in Tuesday’s opening round of the virtual NHL draft. Raymond projects as a top-line player, an admirable combination of hockey sense, relentless work ethic and physical edge. Though the Wings needed major help at every position, they kept coming back to Raymond as the best choice to help the rebuild.
“There were several very good options for us at that pick,” Yzerman said Tuesday night on a video conference call. “Ultimately we chose Lucas. We think he’s a very intelligent, very highly skilled player, very competitive. We think he fits in with the type of team we want to build.”
Raymond had a brief conversation with Yzerman after the pick was made, and did a Zoom call with media. With a six-hour time difference and a 9 a.m. hockey practice, Raymond didn’t get much sleep overnight Tuesday.
The adrenaline was pumping.
“When they called my name,” Raymond said, “I was extremely excited and there are many different feelings and emotions at the same time.”
Raymond, 18, is a two-way forward who can play either wing and both special teams. He should slot in nicely down the road next to the likes of Anthony Mantha, Filip Zadina and Dylan Larkin, helping boost the Wings’ offense.
“We think he has all the tools to be an elite forward in the NHL,” Yzerman said. “He’s a very creative player, good shooter. Good all-around skills. Very competitive. We like the whole package. We don’t see any real glaring weaknesses.”
Raymond has been playing in Sweden’s top hockey league for Frolunda, where he has one goal and one assist in four games. He’s expected to stay there for the 2020-21 season because he’s in a good spot, and because the pandemic has restricted travel and created uncertainty about when the NHL will start next season. Former Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, now a member of the Yzerman’s inner circle, is in Sweden and will be monitoring Raymond’s development.
Raymond made an especially favorable impression at the 2019 U-18 world championships when he scored three goals, including the overtime goal as Sweden defeated Russia in the gold-medal game. Raymond was the youngest player for Sweden at the 2020 world junior championships, where he had two goals and two assists and won bronze.
Yzerman stressed there’s no hurry to bring over Raymond, that he’s better off staying in Sweden until he’s ready.
“It’s just filling out physically, developing, getting stronger,” Yzerman said. “Going from a teenager to a man. You do that through training and playing. We think he has all the tools and skills. He just has to put the time in and the work in.”
Director of amateur scouting Kris Draper announced the pick from a conference room at Little Caesars headquarters, where he was joined by several members of Yzerman’s inner circle. Yzerman joined the group via Zoom from his home, where he was working after being exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Yzerman has received multiple negative tests and is not experiencing any symptoms.
The draft was delayed three months by the pandemic, giving scouts extra time to prepare.
“It was watching a lot of games, all in season, and then when the world stopped, we relied on video,” Draper said. “Then we went back and we double-checked that we had seen live, watched more games on video, and from there it’s discussion.
“We kept talking and our list didn’t really change much. The one name we kept coming back to was Lucas Raymond. Every time we came away from watching him, there were a lot of comments amongst our group of just how smart of a hockey player he is.”
It’s the second straight year Yzerman has taken a European player coming off playing in their native country’s top league. Last year, he used the sixth overall selection on defenseman Moritz Seider, who had been playing in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top league in Germany.
“We watch all the leagues and sometimes it’s really good and in the case of Lucas, it was a little more difficult because he’s not playing 20-22 minutes a night on the men’s team,” Yzerman said. “It’s a coincidence that Moritz was playing in the men’s league last year and we picked Lucas this year. We don’t have a pro bias or a negative bias on where they play.”
The Wings have had tremendous success with many of their Swedish draft picks, most notably Nicklas Lidstrom (53rd overall in 1989, topped 1,000 games and won four Stanley Cups), Tomas Holmstrom (257th in 1994, topped 1,000 games and won four Stanley Cups) and Henrik Zetterberg (210th in 1999, topped 1,000 games and won one Stanley Cup).
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings will be published October 13 by Triumph Books. To order, go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.