Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond making statement with ‘efficient, mature’ game

Lucas Raymond’s objective in training camp and the preseason was to make Detroit Red Wings management think long and hard before sending him to Grand Rapids.

He is doing that, even as a 19-year-old getting accustomed to North American hockey.

The fourth overall pick in the 2020 draft has been one of the main storylines in each of his three preseason games – for the right reasons. He contributed a goal and an assist in Monday’s 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Little Caesars Arena and leads the team with six points (two goals, four assists).

“My mindset was to do whatever I can to make the team and do the things I can control and impact and then it’s up to the staff to decide,” Raymond said.

Raymond will get at least one and possibly two more exhibitions before the Red Wings make their final cuts and set their 23-man season-opening roster.

“Obviously, we don’t have to make that decision yet,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s played good in the games he’s played so far and that’s all he can do, take the challenges he has ahead of him and do a good job. He’s got a mature game for a young guy, and he’s obviously got talent. Let’s keep evaluating.”

Raymond will only stick around if he is logging decent minutes on a top-two line and playing on the power play.

Jakub Vrana will miss at least four months due to shoulder surgery. That creates an opportunity for a skilled player. It could prompt the Red Wings to sign veteran Bobby Ryan, in camp on a tryout. But that wouldn’t necessarily preclude the team from keeping Raymond around.

If Raymond makes the season-opening roster, the Red Wings surely prefer it be permanent and not as a temporary injury replacement. They wouldn’t want him to start the season in the NHL and then be demoted to the AHL.

Regardless of where he starts the season, Raymond is impressing and gaining confidence with each game. He has played on a line with Dylan Larkin and Filip Zadina the past two games.

“It feels like I’m starting to get into my rhythm and I’m feeling good out there,” Raymond said. “Feels like I’m getting the pace.”

He added, “I try to be as confident as I can, hold the puck, that’s a big part of my game, but still being responsible with it when it’s right to do certain things. That’s something I work on every day, every practice and try to bring to every game.”

Blashill was happy to see Raymond elevate his play against a Chicago team that dressed its best players (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Seth Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury).

“Some guys are flashy and talented and don’t play efficient hockey, meaning create more than they give up,” Blashill said. “I think he takes what’s given, and ultimately, when you take what’s given, you’re creating offense without giving up a whole bunch. Chicago had some real defensemen out there and I thought he met the challenge well.”

Blashill said Raymond has done a better job of hounding the puck and gaining possession of it than he did during the Prospects Tournament.

“He seems to have it more. He’s attacked more with it. He’s went and got it way more,” Blashill said. “Over a couple games, that Zadina-Larkin-Lucas line has been pretty good. I don’t know how many more looks we’ll get, how many more games Larks will get. We’ll see.”

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