Lucas Raymond called it a “dream come true” to be selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the No. 4 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday.
“Legendary Swedes have played there,” Raymond said from his home in Gothenburg, Sweden. “So, I mean, it was extremely exciting, and I’m so happy and honored to be a part of the Detroit Red Wings.”
Now the Red Wings need him to follow in the footsteps of Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall and other Sweden-born picks who helped them win the Stanley Cup.
The forward from Frolunda of the Sweden Hockey League will be a key part of their rebuild. The 18-year-old represents their highest pick since 1990, when they selected forward Keith Primeau No. 3, and the highest pick in their history not born in Canada.
“We think he has all the tools to be an elite forward in the NHL,” general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Yzerman and director of amateur scouting Kris Draper praised Raymond’s skill, hockey sense and competitiveness, which was on display in the final of the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. Raymond scored a hat trick for Sweden in a 4-3 overtime win against Russia, including the OT winner.
“I think it’s fun games when it’s kind of all on the line,” Raymond said. “The tight games, I think that’s where everybody steps up. You can almost feel … It’s a certain feeling in those type of games, and I really enjoy it.”
Draper said that means a lot.
“You’re 17 years old, you’re playing in your home country in front of your home fans, and all of a sudden you raise your level, you raise your level of compete and the way you play, and you rise to the occasion in a big game, it puts a smile on your face when you’re watching it,” Draper said.
“You love seeing real good young hockey players kind of rise to the occasion, and that’s exactly what Lucas Raymond did that game. Some of the goals that you saw, it was … Like I said, it was impressive.”
Raymond scored 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 18 games in that tournament. He also scored four points (two goals, two assists) in seven games for Sweden in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.
Though he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 33 games for Frolunda last season, that wasn’t necessarily a negative to the Red Wings. He played against men, fought through adversity, learned from it and still found ways to shine.
“There were some nights that were tough for him, but I can tell you one thing,” Draper said. “There were a couple games that I was over in Sweden and he actually didn’t play a lot, and then all of a sudden within 10 to 12 minutes of a period or a spurt, you saw some special things that he could do, and to me that alludes to the mental toughness that he has.”
Raymond scored two points (one goal, one assist) in four games with Frolunda this season. Yzerman said he assumes Raymond will spend the rest of the season there. It’s possible Raymond could come to Detroit for the 2021-22 season, but Yzerman doesn’t want to set a timeline.
The most important thing is for Raymond (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) to grow.
“It’s just filling out, physically developing, getting stronger, going from a teenager to a man,” Yzerman said. “You do that through training and through playing. We think he has the tools, the skills. He’s just got to put the time and the work in, and it’s just the natural evolution of a teenager turning into an adult.
“We just believe it’s a matter of time, and we’re confident he’ll put the work in and become strong, develop the strength and power needed to do the things he wants to do in the NHL and we expect him to.”