The 2019-20 hockey season is just getting underway, yet excitement for the 2020 NHL Draft is already building. There seems to be a clear number one and two in most early draft rankings, with Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield, but there are some variances after that.
In most rankings, including my own, Lucas Raymond comes in third. There have been cases of him reaching second, and even some falling to seventh. One thing is clear though, Raymond is an elite talent in one of the deepest and best drafts ever – if not the best.
In this piece, I’m going to take a look at what exactly sets Raymond apart from his competition and why he could be a potential superstar in the NHL.
Who is Lucas Raymond?
Raymond is a Swedish right winger, currently playing for the Frolunda Indians in the SHL. At just 17 years old, he’s already playing in the top hockey league in Sweden. In fact, he was one of just three players to start the season in the league under the age of 18.
Simply put, he has succeeded where ever he plays. He’s still young, but his full resume is extremely lengthy. In just 2018-19, he was a Champions League champion, won gold medals in the J18 SM league and the World U18 Championships, silver at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Tournament, and a bronze at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge (U17 WHC).
No – we’re not done with 2018-19. Individually, he was the J18 SM Playoff MVP, the J20 SuperElit Best Forward and he had the most points by a U17 player, and he was named to the U17 WHC All-Star Team.
Scouting Report on Raymond
Now that we know who Raymond is, let’s dive into what you’re all here for – how he plays and why he’s considered elite. This is broken up into five sections, skating, shooting, passing, puck handling and defensive ability. Overall, Raymond is an elite prospect. By breaking down his game, we get a look into why.
One of Raymond’s biggest strengths is the ability to go from one end of the rink to the other, leaving everyone in his dust and creating a scoring chance for himself. This exact situation can be seen in the video below. Picking up the puck behind the net, Raymond wastes no time reaching the opponent’s end and getting a shot off on net.
His movement on the ice is one of many big strengths. He’s able to accelerate quickly, due to his explosive first few strides. He has a high top-speed that most players he’s facing can’t defend against. Even when he glides, he’s hard to catch.
One of my favourite aspects of his game is that he has the ability to dance around the opposition to give himself more ice to work with. You’ll see this again in the Puck Handling section below. This is due to his elite edge work. He makes quick turns, surprising the best of defenders. He’s extremely elusive and should be at the top of any opposing team’s list to watch.
Despite being known as more of a playmaker, Raymond has a wicked shot. He’s got a great wrister that can pick the corners from in close or from the top of the circle. As you can see in the video, aim isn’t an issue that Raymond needs to worry about.
Something else you may notice if you re-watch that video is the slight pause between pulling the puck back and his release. He does this often, deceiving defenders and goaltenders and if he doesn’t score, he gets a solid scoring chance. His patience at this moment, and whenever he has the puck for that matter, is beyond his years.
There are skeptics of his shot velocity, which is valid. He’s just 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds though, so as he puts on muscle and size, he’ll get more behind his shot. It’s not something that anyone needs to worry about at this point – as the video shows.
If there was one aspect of Raymond’s game I would pinpoint as his best attribute, I’d lean towards his passing ability. That being said, you really can’t single out one part of his game because he’s just so good all over. Take a look at the video below. Skating slowly behind the net, Raymond pivots on a dime, sending a cross-crease pass to his fellow Swede who buries it. He barely even looks and it goes through the goalie and two defenders, right on to the stick of his teammate.
Raymond is one of the best passers in this draft class. He doesn’t need to look, yet it’s a hard tape-to-tape pass that finds it’s way through defenders. You can see his hockey sense on full display every time he gives the puck to his teammates. He knows where everyone on the ice is, knows where they will be, and puts the puck exactly where it should be.
This vision that Raymond possesses is elite. Combining that with his creativity, equals an offensive threat that defenders can’t predict. That’s something that every NHL team will want in June 2020.
We’ve already talked about Raymond’s skating. Now, let’s give him the puck and see what happens. I promise you won’t be disappointed, although defenders might be. Take a look:
Raymond seems to have the puck on a string. He can put it through legs or completely around defenders and use his feet to beat them. He’s incredible along the boards or in tight spaces, holding on to the puck like it’s glued on his stick. His creativity is always on display when he has the puck, much to the dismay of defenders.
What takes him to the next level, is his ability to play with that level of puck handling at his top speed. These to skills together make Raymond a potential game-breaker every time he hits the ice.
Something that doesn’t get talked about enough is Raymond away from the puck. It’s understandable since there’s so much to talk about when he has the puck, but let’s take a moment to reflect on yet another strength of Raymond’s game.
If you watched the above video, this is needless to say but if you get the puck near Raymond, get rid of it quick. Otherwise, it will be on his stick heading the other way. Above, I mentioned that Raymond has the puck on a string. Well if someone else has the puck, that string is still there and he’ll pull it away from them.
He’s always on a mission to get the puck back for his team. He never gives up and battles whenever he can. On top of his puck thievery, he’s not afraid to throw his body around. This physicality brings another level to his game that can’t be said for many players of his ability and size. As he continues to grow and bulk up, this will be an interesting trait to watch.
Lucas Raymond is a Potential Superstar
Raymond is elite. Both on and off the puck, he’s a threat. He can score on the power play, he can defend on the penalty kill, and for a 17-year-old playing in a men’s league, that’s extremely impressive. He takes big risks, and more often than not they pay off.
Early on, Raymond has been compared to Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner. They are both fast, have great shots, are elite playmakers, can take the puck away from nearly anyone and never give up. There’s still a lot of time before the draft, but to be compared to Marner already? That’s a pretty good comparison (From: “Wheeler: Preseason look at the top 31 prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft” – The Athletic – Aug. 19, 2019).
If you aren’t already, make sure you’re following Raymond’s season both in the SHL and the Champions Hockey League. He’ll also likely be at the 2020 World Junior Championship and depending on how his club play is going, we could see him at the World U18 Championships or even the World Championships. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on.