Lucas Raymond ended his extraordinary rookie season with an assist and a celebration — and a need to decompress.
The 20-year-old was one of three Detroit Red Wings to last all 82 games, more than double what he was used to in his native Sweden. He played big minutes, too, earning a job on the top line out of training camp and never faltering.
Raymond has high standards for himself, and his desire to make even more of an impact in his second year led him to turn down an invitation to play at this month’s World Championship in Finland.
“It was a very tough decision,” Raymond said Wednesday. “You always want to play for your national team, especially in a tournament that big, but the decision came down to that I didn’t have much left in the tank and had to think about having a good summer. I want to have a really good summer this year to be prepared for next year, and I feel now I can get more time and I can prepare the way I want to.”
The decision reflects Raymond’s impact on the Wings. When he came to camp last September, he wasn’t sure if he’d make the team, and the Wings thought he’d probably need to start in Grand Rapids. The organization was pleased with how the No. 4 pick in 2020 had developed, but Raymond was 19 and hadn’t played in North America.
Then Jakub Vrana’s shoulder injury opened a spot on Dylan Larkin’s line, and Raymond aced the audition, finishing with 23 goals among 57 points. He, Moritz Seider and Pius Suter were the only Wings to appear in every game.
“It was a really fun first season,” Raymond said. “The result wasn’t as we wanted it but for me personally, I really enjoyed it. We had a great team that made it really easy for me to come in… That helped me out a lot. Coming into training camp I didn’t expect much. I just had the mindset to try and make the team and when I did that, it was about performing on the ice.”
Raymond learned as he went through the season. There were games when he felt good going in, and games when he didn’t; it was challenging to maintain consistency. Raymond appreciated how much he got to see of North America (he had been to New York and Boston when he was a kid), but there were days it was overwhelming.
“I played every game and sometimes you don’t feel great,” Raymond said. “It was an 82-game season and I was not used to traveling in different time zones. Traveling, I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s very comfortable for us and we get great help all around with trainers to make sure that we’re prepared.
“I felt good. I think it’s more mentally (challenging) than it is physically to really be there every game and be on it. It was a great first season for me to get into that and know what’s coming next year.”
Raymond flew home shortly after helping the Wings win their season finale last Friday, and plans to start training in a few weeks. Like all young players, Raymond’s focus is on getting stronger, which will help him endure the grind of an NHL schedule.
And he’s hoping the Wings will have learned from the promise shown the first half of this season, and the tribulations of the second half, and that the result will add up to more than 82 games in 2022-23.
“We were in a great spot at the beginning of the season and then lost it a little bit the second half, which was tough,” Raymond said. “I would have loved to be in the playoffs right now, so the mindset is to regroup and have a really good summer and then go at it next year with being determined to make the playoffs.”
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.