Something good is coming with the fourth pick in the 2020 NHL draft. In fact, as the first pick outside of the top three, the Detroit Red Wings might have the widest variety of players available to them. Sweden is home to two of those players: Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond.
In Raymond, you have a player that has been near the top of most prospect rankings since the season began. His stock decreased over the course of the season, and that can somewhat be attributed to the play of the players now ranked ahead of him. Make no mistake, this is a deep draft class, and Raymond is one of its best players.
In fact, he may remind Red Wings fans of certain players from the past. He’s got a skill set that should translate to the NHL. He’s not the flashiest player available, but for the Red Wings, he could become the complete package.
Even though Raymond was mostly an extra forward this season in the SHL, he consistently displayed strong hockey I.Q. in all areas of the ice. You know that “200-foot game” that head coach Jeff Blashill likes to talk about? Raymond already has that part figured out.
Not only does he move the puck around well in the offensive zone (despite a lack of production) but he hassles the opposition when he’s trying to retrieve the puck. Simply put: he attacks the puck. You can envision him in the defensive zone doing something like this:
At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Raymond is still very much a slender teenager. Despite that, he does a great job of maintaining possession. He’s a player that needs to bulk up in order to thrive in the NHL, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Once he adds that strength, he’ll be able to forecheck with greater velocity, and he’ll be stronger on his stick. He should develop into an all-situations forward that his coach is going to love.
Raymond is a puck distributor. However, he’s not necessarily a Joe Thornton or Nicklas Backstrom-type of playmaker. Rather, he carries the puck into open spaces and waits for a lane to open up. He recognizes where the dangerous chances happen, and he does his part to ensure that the puck gets to those spaces.
He has a good shot, but he’s not going to be in the running for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. He’s a good second or third-shot candidate in any offensive game-plan. It’s why he would be best-suited to play alongside someone whose shot is their bread and butter. For examples of current Red Wings that fit the bill, look at guys like Anthony Mantha and Filip Zadina.
But if Raymond has to make a play on his own, he seems more than capable. He likes to have the puck on his stick, paving the way for him to potentially make plays like this:
He can hit an open seam if need be. Opposing defenders will have to respect him in the offensive zone.
After Alexis Lafrenière, there are few players in this draft class that seem ready to immediately jump into the NHL. Raymond is no exception — it’s hard to go from a bottom-six forward in the SHL to a top-nine forward in the NHL at just 18 years old. Realistically, he probably needs one more year outside the NHL (possibly in the AHL) to develop his skills and his body.
That’s fine! The Red Wings currently have more than enough wingers to fill out their roster. They should allow Raymond to develop elsewhere while they use next season to determine the long-term futures of guys like Taro Hirose and Evgeny Svechnikov.
Come the 2021-22 season, the Red Wings’ roster should include the likes of 2017 top-pick Michael Rasmussen, Zadina, 2019 top-pick Moritz Seider and Raymond. That’s a good group of highly drafted youth capable of turning around the team’s fortunes. Of all these players, Raymond seems the most-likely to reach his full potential, and Red Wings fans should have a particular appreciation for what that potential is.
Flashes of Zetterberg
During his time with the Red Wings, Henrik Zetterberg earned the league’s respect as a true two-way force. Sure, he had six seasons where he averaged a point-per-game or more, but he also received votes for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 10 of his 15 seasons.
Zetterberg could finish off a pretty play made by a teammate just as well as he could create such a play himself. Though he was a bit of a string bean in his early years, he didn’t let his size prevent him from pressing his will on the opposition.
This is the type of player that Raymond can be. At his worst, he’s probably a player like Gustav Nyquist — a solid, top-six forward, though not what you’d expect from a fourth-overall pick. These comparisons aren’t perfect, and it’s partially influenced by the fact that they’re all from Sweden. But Red Wings fans can appreciate what a player like Zetterberg, or even Nyquist can do for a team, and if Raymond ends up anything like the former, then fans would embrace him with open arms.
Best Player Available
The Red Wings are still in the phase of their rebuild where they need to prioritize taking the best players available with their available draft picks. Drafting for positional need isn’t a luxury that they can afford at this time. That’s why this pick at number four is so intriguing.
There is an argument to be made for taking a number of players at fourth overall. These arguments are all valid — the difference between some of these players is razor thin. The Red Wings should recognize just how well-rounded Raymond’s game is, and if they take him, know that they got themselves a player that is going to play meaningful minutes in the NHL.
Every team could use a player or two like Raymond on their roster, and that includes the Red Wings. So, why not take him?