Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond navigates peaks, valleys of second season: ‘I grew a lot’

Detroit News

Detroit — It wasn’t necessarily a sophomore slump, or some sort of second-year jinx that afflicted forward Lucas Raymond.

Most second-year players would love to have a season that Raymond had scoring 17 goals with 45 points, all while missing eight games due to injury.

It was a good season by Raymond; he remained an offensive threat. But on the whole, it wasn’t as good as his rookie season (23 goals, 57 points), which was so impactful Raymond finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting.

“This year was a little bit different for me,” Raymond said last week on his season-ending Zoom call with media. “I grew a lot on and off the ice as well.”

Raymond is a goal-scorer. He’s counted on to score goals, to create offense, and if the offense doesn’t materialize it can be tough for a young player in the unforgiving NHL.

The way Raymond’s season went, with peaks and valleys, flourishes of offense then cold fronts, it can get to goal-scorers.

“Everyone wants to score goals, and me in particular,” Raymond said. “That’s always frustrating. But it’s just about sticking with it and doing the right things and focusing on playing good.

“The rest will come.”

Raymond acknowledged the goals would come in “bunches” this season. A hot streak, quickly accompanied by a stretch where the goals weren’t there.

“I felt like my play was pretty consistent, but production could come in bunches sometimes,” Raymond said. “I felt good. You want to be a consistent player. That’s something, it’s about figuring out what you need to be that.”

General manager Steve Yzerman feels Raymond will learn from this past season. The fact Raymond had to overcome an injury, the way he was used by new coach Derek Lalonde, and simply the growing pains for any younger player, it all will benefit Raymond in the future.

“It was a grind,” Yzerman said. “In fairness to him, David Perron comes in as a right winger in the spot Lucas played last year and David went into that role and did it quite well for us. That forced Lucas to adapt and at times play on the second power-play unit, which in the NHL, it’s a huge difference playing on the first unit to the second unit.

“He adjusted well to that, and the new coaching staff, playing on different lines and different situations. I expect him to grow from it. I expect him to be better next year. But overall, he played very well. Lucas is an excellent young player who is only going to continue to get better.

“In some ways grinding it out this year is going to make him a better hockey player.”

Raymond collided with defenseman Ben Chiarot during a practice drill on Feb. 10 and suffered a lower-body injury that kept Raymond out for eight games.

It was the first time in Raymond’s short NHL career he’d been injured to that extent, the first time Raymond missed any games.

Upon returning, it took a while for Raymond to get back into the rhythm he’d been in before.

“It’s never fun being injured and that was my first injury in the NHL,” Raymond said. “It’s not fun. You’re eager to get back on the ice and help the guys, especially the position we were in (chasing a playoff spot), but it’s all part of it, and you learn how to overcome it. You’ll never feel 100%. It’s just about doing everything you can to try and play as good as possible.

“The injury wasn’t fun and it lingered a little bit. But it’s part of it and it was a valuable thing to grow from.”

Captain Dylan Larkin feels Raymond will learn from this season and come back with “a chip on his shoulder.

“Every player goes through it,” Larkin said. “I still go into summers like that. It pushes you and gives you motivation every day when you’re waking up and going to the gym and going on the ice to do things that will separate you. He’s got a great attitude into this offseason that he wants to be better.”

Lalonde is quick to highlight the fact Raymond is only 21 and jumped directly from Sweden’s pro league into the NHL, never setting a skate in the American Hockey League.

For any young player, said Lalonde said, that kind of jump isn’t always going to go smoothly.

“I don’t think people respect how hard that is,” Lalonde said. “You can’t think it’s just going to keep growing steadily. He probably went through some bumps and bruises. He went through some sicknesses this year. That’s just part of being a young kid in this league.

“He’s still so fresh and raw in his development. There’s a ton of growth for his ceiling and this summer will be another step toward it.”

Raymond will play for Sweden in the upcoming men’s world championships beginning May 12. The honor of playing for his country, while also still on an emotional high with the way the Wings’ season ended, playing meaningful games until the final two weeks of the regular season, made the decision to play in the world championships easy.

“I feel really good, excited and I want to keep playing,” Raymond said. “That was my thought process and I’m very excited to go.

“It was a lot more fun (during the regular season), everyone was fighting until the end. I also felt even when we were eliminated, guys were really showing up and putting the work in and that says a lot about our team.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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