Lucas Raymond had an incredibly impressive rookie season for the Detroit Red Wings, earning first-line minutes and scoring 57 points while leading the team’s forwards in ice time. With such a massive role on a rebuilding team that is still searching for its identity, Raymond made it clear that he will be one of the centerpieces of the team’s future.
As far as rookies are concerned, Raymond was above-average defensively while showing more than a few flashes of the dynamic offensive talent that led to him being selected fourth overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. Despite playing on the first line and facing stiff competition each game, the Red Wings were an above-average team while Raymond was on the ice; nearly 55% of shots taken during his shifts were from the Red Wings (stats from Natural Stat Trick). That ranks eighth among rookies who played more than 500 minutes and second among rookies whose team missed the playoffs.
By all accounts, this season was a massive success for the 20-year-old, but now it’s time to look ahead and determine what kind of impact Raymond will have going forward. To predict his trajectory over the next few seasons, I looked at recent rookies who had similar seasons in terms of production (mostly in points per game (PPG)) and role (big minutes at 5v5 and special teams) and tried to find a player who most resembled Raymond in his rookie campaign.
I’ll start off with some of Raymond’s stats from this season and move from somewhat comparable players to the players who I think are excellent models for what we can expect to see from him. Let’s get speculating!
Lucas Raymond – Detroit Red Wings
23 goals and 34 assists for 57 points in 82 games
Raymond was 19 years old for most of the season and was leaned on heavily as a reliable forward, earning well over 200 minutes of ice time on the power play. He surpassed all expectations by making the transition from the SHL to the NHL seem as smooth as we’ve ever seen.
Mark Stone – Ottawa Senators
30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points in 103 games
Mark Stone played a combined 23 games during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons before playing his full rookie season in 2014-15, for 103 games as a rookie. Stone’s production increased in his second full season to 0.81 PPG before dropping a bit in his third season to 0.76 PPG, though this is still a very respectable number. It was around this time that he began to develop a reputation for being an excellent defensive forward, which offsets some of the lost value from scoring fewer points.
Though Stone’s production is similar to Raymond’s, he entered the league at 21 years old after playing two full seasons in the American Hockey League. That extra time and experience are huge for developing prospects. He also joined a competitive Ottawa Senators team that featured defenseman Erik Karlsson in his prime. He wasn’t expected to be a lead contributor on a rebuilding team, so I’m sure we can find a more apt comparison.
Nico Hischier – New Jersey Devils
20 goals and 32 assists for 52 points in 82 games
Though he was overshadowed by other rookies like Miro Heiskanen and Elias Pettersson, Nico Hischier had an excellent rookie season in 2017-18 after being selected first overall by the New Jersey Devils. Expectations are high for first overall picks, and Hischier responded with a solid all-around season despite the lack of talent that surrounded him. He followed up his rookie year with a 47-point season and a 0.68 PPG, a moderate improvement.
Related: What Can Red Wings Fans Expect From the 8th Overall Pick?
After two injury-shortened seasons, Hischier returned for his fifth season this year and scored a career-high 70 points, good enough for 0.86 PPG. He had a very similar role in his rookie season to Raymond, but the two players have very different playing styles, and I anticipate that Raymond’s offensive results will be a bit more significant.
William Nylander – Toronto Maple Leafs
22 goals and 39 assists for 61 points in 82 games
William Nylander broke into the league as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ youth movement alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. There was no expectation of him being “the guy” on the young team; that pressure was focused on Matthews, the first-overall pick from 2016. Despite expectations being a bit lower, Nylander came out swinging in his rookie season, scoring 61 points at 20 years old. He followed that up with another 61-point season before a contract dispute before his third year kept him out until December.
Nylander averaged 0.73 PPG over his first six NHL seasons, which is exceptional. However, he broke out this season with 80 points in 81 games (0.99 PPG). He has thrived as a secondary star, and his consistent play and production would be a great model for Raymond. Despite that, the Red Wings don’t have players like Marner or Matthews to bring in ahead of Raymond, so his role will certainly be bigger than Nylander’s. Not a bad comparison, though, considering Nylander’s path from the SHL to North America at a young age.
Jack Eichel – Buffalo Sabres
24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points in 81 games
Public opinion on Jack Eichel has soured over the last year or so after an injury controversy ended his time with the Buffalo Sabres and his lack of success with the Vegas Golden Knights in half of a season. As a result, many people seem to have forgotten just how special he is. As a 19-year-old rookie on a horrible Sabres team, Eichel scored 56 points in 81 games.
Eichel’s per-game production increased through each of his first five seasons, going from 0.69 to 1.15. This was all on the same Buffalo team that only slightly improved in that time, mainly thanks to the addition of other high-draft prospects like Rasmus Dahlin. For most of his seasons in Buffalo, Eichel wasn’t just “the guy”, he was “the only guy.” Expectations for him were so high, and he could only do so much on his own to meet them. He had similar production and expectations to Raymond, but the team around him and his path to the NHL were quite different.
Elias Pettersson – Vancouver Canucks
28 goals and 38 assists for 66 points in 71 games
Elias Pettersson and Raymond are both Swedish forwards who played in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in the first season after they were drafted and then immediately made the jump to the NHL. They both joined rebuilding teams where expectations were high for them, though they weren’t the main focus of their team’s rebuild.
When Pettersson joined the Vancouver Canucks, Quinn Hughes had already been drafted to be their number one defender, and Brock Boeser had just earned the second most Calder Trophy votes the season before. Pettersson didn’t enter the NHL as the only great player on his team, and Raymond didn’t either. He joined the Red Wings’ franchise defender Moritz Seider, who was fresh off winning the SHL’s best defenseman award as a 20-year-old. Detroit had also drafted another potentially elite defenseman in Simon Edvinsson and their goaltender of the future, Sebastian Cossa, in the offseason before Raymond entered the league.
Obviously, Pettersson’s rookie production is significantly higher than Raymond’s, but I still think that Pettersson is a great high-end comparison. Pettersson slightly improved his per-game scoring rate in his second season before a wrist injury significantly shortened his third season and led to a slow start to his fourth. However, he seemed to recover well, scoring at a 1.21 PPG rate over the last 43 games of the campaign.
The two players have similar skill sets, which leads me to believe that if the Red Wings continue to surround Raymond with more great players, he will be able to make a jump in scoring as soon as next season to get himself close to the point-per-game mark. Both players are crafty, skilled two-way forwards with a knack for scoring goals and embarrassing opposing players with their puck skills. Both were expected to struggle to start their NHL careers because they were too small and physically immature to handle the toughness of the NHL.
What Will Raymond’s Future Look Like?
Very few rookies over the last decade have scored at the rate that Raymond did this last season, and most who did are considered to be among the NHL’s elite. If he can improve on his exceptional rookie season and maybe even earn some time on the penalty kill, then he will quickly prove himself as one of the cornerstone pieces of this young Red Wings team for years to come.
If Raymond can maintain his rookie scoring rate throughout next season and avoid the “sophomore slump” that many young NHL players face, then that season will be considered a mild success. If he is able to elevate his game once again on a marginally improved Red Wings team with a less porous defensive corps, then he will cement himself as one of the best young players in the league.
I’m feeling bold here, so I’m going to make an exact prediction for his sophomore season and some guesses at his future production as well. I predict that Raymond will score 29 goals and 40 assists over an 82-game season. That would give him 0.84 PPG in his second season, which I also think will be similar to his third-year production before he explodes offensively in his fourth year (as he is joined by the Red Wings’ 2022 eighth overall pick) for a scoring rate over 1.1 PPG.
Regardless of where his scoring ends up over the next few seasons, Raymond was no one-season wonder. He is an excellent player who has dramatically altered the franchise’s future, and he is here to stay.