Raymond playing the right way, leading an impressive Wings’ rookie trio

Detroit News

Detroit — The first time coach Jeff Blashill saw the promise on the ice was in an exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Red Wings were playing Chicago at Little Caesars Arena on Oct. 4. Rookie forward Lucas Raymond was matched against an NHL-caliber roster, which you don’t normally see during exhibition games.

Facing that lineup, Raymond had a goal and an assist, while making several impressive plays. Th effort strengthened his case to make the opening-night roster.

“The way he performed, (we knew) he had a chance to have an impact,” Blashill said.

As the games continued, it was apparent Raymond was ready for the NHL. His skill level and smarts shined through.

Raymond has continued to be a force. On Wednesday night, hours after being chosen as the NHL’s rookie of the month, Raymond scored a goal. That tied him for the team lead with 10 and sparked another Wings’ victory (4-3 in a shootout over the Seattle Kraken).

Two months into his NHL career, Raymond has been impressive beyond expectations.

More: Red Wings legend Alex Delvecchio to celebrate 90th birthday Saturday

“I’m not going to get ahead of myself,” Blashill said. “He’s a good player, there’s zero doubt. He’s really smart. He plays the right way. He’s been able to produce while also playing the right way. That’s the biggest key. That’s why he’s been so transferrable. He doesn’t need to cheat to create offense, and so then he earns ice time.”

Raymond has 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points, in 24 games. The longest he’s gone without earning a point is two games. He’s had three, three-game point streaks.

Raymond has thrived on a line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi (now out for the next 10 days, being in COVID-19 protocol), complementing each other’s strengths.

Raymond has accepted the responsibility of playing on the top scoring line, knows what is expected and appears to relish the pressure.

“I take responsibility in the offensive game,” Raymond said.

There is a sense of pride and responsibility over the entire ice, which has pleased Blashill and the coaching staff from the start.

“I’m trying to find my game and I’m still learning every day, trying to get better at areas that are my weaknesses,” Raymond said. “I’m just trying to be an offensive forward that you can count on defensively who plays hard every night, and still working and going to find my identity as it goes on.

“My main thing is just to skate hard every night.”

Raymond, Seider and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, all rookies, have bolstered the Wings’ outlook on this season.

No longer is this team expected to contend for top pick in the NHL Draft Lottery.

Raymond leads all NHL rookies in points. Defenseman Moritz Seider leads all rookies with 14 assists. Nedeljkovic, who was a finalist for last season’s Calder Trophy (rookie of the year, still fits the criteria for the award this season) while with Carolina, leads rookies with seven victories and a .923 save percentage.

The three rookies have exceeded any hopes the Wings had,

The Wings have looked and played like an energized group most nights. But pure talent like the rookies are showing, wins out.

“What helps bring energy up is knowing that you have really good players in your locker room,” Blashill said. “Obviously, there’s been a real infusion of talent with those three players.”

Raymond said the entire roster is behind the team’s successful start. Vital leadership coming from many sources.

The back-to-back victories this week, on the road Tuesday in Boston and back home against Seattle in a shootout the next day, were signs of maturity. Especially after going winless on a recent four-game road trip when the Wings drifted away from their defensive game plan.

It’s been a tighter and more cohesive group on the ice since, as evidenced by a season-high four-game win streak.

“We have a great group in there  (locker room),” Raymond said. “There’s a lot of leaders that step up and take responsibility to get the team back on track. I feel, especially since we had the tough road games, we got back, hit the reset button, and now we’re going again.

“It’s a lot of different things, but it comes from the locker room.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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