Having started this week acing a meeting with his boss, Lucas Raymond knows the tests will only get harder.
He’s slated to make his NHL debut Thursday when the Detroit Red Wings host the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena, having played so well during exhibition season that he earned a spot at just 19.
It’s been little more than a year since general manager Steve Yzerman drafted Raymond, on Oct. 6, 2020, in the first round, noting afterwards that “we think he has all the tools to be an elite forward in the NHL. We don’t see any real glaring weaknesses.”
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Yzerman reached out to Raymond on Sunday to let him know he wanted to meet with him the next day. Raymond admitted to nerves, but asked if it was comparable to being called to the principal’s office, Raymond smiled.
“I’ve never been called to the principal,” he said. “For sure, he’s the boss, when he calls you in, and especially at these times — am I going to make the team or not?
“It was really exciting. He told me I played good during preseason but there is a lot of work yet to do. Just because I made the opening night roster, it doesn’t mean that I will play the entire season. For me, it’s just to go out there and play good and prove myself and then take it from there.”
Raymond is rooming with fellow rookie Moritz Seider, who is secure enough in his role that he has gotten a place to live and a car. A native of Sweden, Raymond relied on Joe Veleno for rides during training camp in Traverse City, but Seider is pretty good for a chauffeur, too.
“Joe was my Uber driver, don’t have an Uber driver any more so I’m living at Seider’s place, so he has taken over that spot,” Raymond said. “I have to get a car, get my phone set up.”
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There are people in the organization who will help with his off-ice transition, just as with his on-ice adjustment. The key to Raymond earning a spot on the 23-man roster submitted Monday was proving he belonged in the top six. The Wings didn’t want Raymond playing 8 minutes a game in Detroit; he’d be better served by playing 18 a game with the Grand Rapids Griffins. But with Jakub Vrana sidelined through January because of a shoulder injury, a spot opened next to Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, and Raymond grabbed it.
“Larks gives anybody he plays with pace, and one thing Lucas has to continue to learn is how to play at that higher pace,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s a really smart player that has to move his feet more, to go get pucks. Bert is a guy who goes gets puck a lot, Larks brings a high pace and Lucas is a really smart offensive player.”
It’s a fitting compliment for Larkin that he’s now the captain who will center a talented young rookie; six years ago he was the talented rookie and Henrik Zetterberg the captain and center. Larkin repeatedly has raved about how smart a player Raymond is, and Raymond has felt at ease being his linemate.
“Dylan is a great player and a great leader off the ice,” Raymond said. “When I’ve played with him it’s been really, really easy, because he’s a really smart player. He plays with a lot of speed and does everything at a high pace, and has a great mind. He’s easy to read off.”
Raymond and Seider, 20, played in the Swedish Hockey League last season, so they are used to playing with men. But they’ve never faced anything like the rigors of an 82-game schedule.
“There’s nothing like the NHL in terms of the day-to-day competition, the pressure, internally, externally, that you face,” Blashill said. “Part of becoming an elite athlete is mental toughness matters tons. Guys that can take coaching, can take positive reinforcement, can take criticism, and stay pretty even keeled and continue to do what they think is right on the ice are the ones that are ultimately have success. Both of those two young guys have that mental makeup, and I think it will be critical to their success.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.