Detroit Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond ‘a target for other teams’ but he doesn’t care

Detroit Free Press

CHICAGO — Lucas Raymond keeps backing up Steve Yzerman’s faith in him, keeps proving he belongs in the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup.

It’s an impressive accomplishment for a rookie, especially one who is 19 and adjusting to the North American pro game. Raymond, the No. 4 overall pick in 2020, is second on the Wings with seven points in six games. His four-point performance in Sunday’s 6-3 victory over the Blackhawks sends the Wings roaring into the start of a new week.

“It is impressive,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s a good player, makes good plays. He wants the puck on his stick and when he has it, he’s good. Away from the puck he’s really good. It’s a long season, and it’s hard to have it every night as a 19-year-old, so, we’ll see if he can keep it up.”

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When Raymond’s third goal went in at United Center,  he became the first teenaged Wings player to record a hat trick since Yzerman did it March30, 1985 at Toronto. He’s the third teenager to franchise history to record at least four points in a game, joining Yzerman (three goals, one assist, Dec. 23, 1983) and Gordie Howe (four assists, Dec. 17, 1947).

“It’s tough to take in,” Raymond said. “Those are two of the greatest players who ever played in franchise history. I’m trying not to think about it that much — just keep playing, keep working.”

It’s that mindset that earned Raymond a spot in the lineup coming out of training camp. He got the chance to audition on a line with Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi when Jakub Vrana was diagnosed with a shoulder injury that will keep him out through January, and aced the test. Raymond scores because he competes hard, and he makes smart decisions with the puck.

“It’s a complete game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He does it right at both ends of the ice. The line is a good line. They’ve got different pieces — Larks has that energy, can win puck battles, and Tyler does a lot of everything and wins puck battles. He’s hard at the net and has the skill to make plays. And Lucas is a really skilled player, good defensively, and is in position to make offensive plays. So I like the line.”

Raymond had a big smile on his face when his slapshot sank into Chicago’s net to secure the hat trick.

“It was fun, for sure,’ he said. “First of all to get the bounce-back win after a tough night in Montreal, and to score my first career hat trick.

“You’re always trying to score and sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. I was just trying to keep pushing. We had a game to win so my mindset was just to score. I’m trying to play every game and play as good as I can and help the team win the way I can. It felt like we had a pretty good start to the season and I feel good out there. I’m just trying to keep it going.”

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Raymond’s most impressive goal was his second, which he earned by driving to the net and putting up with the abuse that comes with going to such a hard area.

“I’ve noticed here the first six games, he’s been a target for other teams,” Larkin said. “They do their homework and watch, and they try to get under this skin, but he hasn’t really let anyone yet. He plays the game the right way.”

That Raymond is playing the right way right away in his first year over from his native Sweden is all the more satisfying for the Wings because of how they got Raymond. In 2019-20, the Wings finished with the worst record in the NHL, winning just 17 games before the NHL shut down March 12, 2020, because of the pandemic. But they were pushed back to fourth in the draft lottery — while the New York Rangers went from the playoff bubble to the No. 1 overall selection. Raymond is making that pick look like the best consolation prize since the Wings settled for Yzerman at No. 4 in 1983, when they really wanted hometown boy Pat LaFontaine.

It’s still early in the season, but Raymond has been a big part of a 3-2-1 start.

“He is getting a hell of an opportunity, and he’s earned some of it,” Blashill said. “But he’s in the NHL at a young age, which not a lot of guys get the chance to do, and number two, he’s playing with really good players on a really good line and getting important minutes. I think he’s capitalized on that and it’s great that he has the hat trick, but he’s got to make sure he keeps doing a really good job with that time and the minutes that he gets.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.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 is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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