Chicago — Lucas Raymond is just entering his second NHL season, but already Chicago’s United Center has to be near the list of his favorite rinks.
Sure, it’s always a loud, raucous building where fans get into the game as much as anywhere.
But Raymond has had success here, too. A lot of it.
Last season, Raymond had a hat trick and an assist, a four-point game, in his first week in the NHL. This preseason, Raymond had a goal and two assists in an exhibition victory at United Center.
“I’ve had success in this building; I like playing here,” said Raymond after Friday’s morning skate. “But every game is a new one. Different circumstances (every game).”
Raymond was still looking for his first goal through three games this season heading into Friday’s game. He had two assists, and a plus-four rating, a testament to his and the Wings’ overall defensive improvement and emphasis.
Fellow rookie sensation from a year ago Moritz Seider, who won the NHL’s Calder Trophy for good measure, was looking for his first point thus far after three games.
If anything, it’s a further testament to how hard the NHL is, and how difficult year two in the NHL can be compared to year one.
“It’s a really hard league and they had a lot of success but that success was through hard work and they have to keep on top of why they had success,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “That’s every single night. It’s good to be in this league, and another thing to be good every night.”
As with everyone on the roster, Lalonde has made team defense a focus. Seider and Raymond are no different, with Lalonde wanting both young players to be focused on keeping the puck out of the Wings’ net.
“They’re still raw in their development and they have to manage their expectations,” Lalonde said. “We’ll do that for them. They’re still growing and still creating habits.
“Especially toward the end of (last season), it was a weird situation they were in. They (the Wings) were way out of it and those guys probably played a little loose because of it. Now, we’re asking them to, I wouldn’t say tighten things up, (but) be a little more into where we want to be with our team defense. There’s been some adjustment. You can see even some frustration in them and they’re still developing and trying to find their game, which isn’t surprising to me.
“Just typical part of the development. But for a young kid, it’s sometimes tough to go through. You got that instant success in this league and it’s tough to replicate night in and night out. That will be a challenge.”
Dylan Larkin, who himself saw how hard the second year in the NHL can be, seeing his point total fall from 45 to 32, talked during training camp about what Raymond and Seider could expect.
“I played on the fourth line for the majority of that year and kind of lost my spot to some veteran players,” Larkin said. “Those guys don’t want that to happen.
“They’re more talented and skilled than I was at that age. They’re big parts of this team. I kind of talked to them at the end of last year to come in prepared, especially Lucas, to come in and really solidify that not even is he a top player on our team; he’s taking a step to be a top player in this league.”
Where opponents maybe didn’t have much of an advance scouting measure on Raymond or Seider before, they now have a good idea of what they can do well, maybe not as well, their tendencies, and how to attack them.
Raymond, though, hasn’t necessarily seen that yet. In his mind, let the season play out.
“I have to wait and see,” Raymond said. “It’s going to be different in a lot of aspects. Just being the second year, a lot of things aren’t brand-new anymore.
“Not really (have seen anything different yet from opponents). It’s up to myself and that’s the biggest part I’m focusing on.”
Lalonde made a minor tweak in the lines leading up to Friday’s game, with Raymond being taken off the Larkin line. Raymond was placed on Andrew Copp’s line, with David Perron going on Larkin’s line.
There’s no doubt Raymond and Seider are huge parts of what this Wings’ roster will ultimately look like in the years ahead.
For Seider, his importance to the overall structure of the team was emphasized last weekend when he wore an ‘A” (alternate captain) on his jersey when the Wings played in New Jersey.
Seider’s presence on the ice and that points don’t necessarily accompany that, can’t be overstated along with his growing leadership.
“It says a lot about Mo,” Lalonde said last week about Seider getting to wear the ‘A’. “We’re going to help him develop his leadership. It’s not going to happen overnight, but someone that will play that significant of a role for us, in every situation, you’re going to be looked up to as a leader, right, wrong, or indifferent. It’s a reality and it’s going to be a responsibility of his.
“He has a good demeanor about himself in the room. His practice habits, you guys see how hard he practices and his developing to be better each and every day. It’s a process (leadership) that we’re trying to develop in the room, too.”