This time of year is usually the best time for hockey. The NHL playoffs are in full swing, the U18 World Championship provides some new insight on draft prospects, and the Men’s World Championship gives us a chance to see a variety of NHL and international talent. Obviously, those events will not be happening anytime soon.
I guess it’s still a great time for hockey fans if they follow Belarusian amateur hockey, unfortunately I have not had the chance to keep up with that league this season.
The extra time in quarantine has given me the chance to go back and watch some additional games of this year’s NHL Draft prospects. So I will be doing a ‘Draft Profile’ series where I break down some film and analyze various prospects.
The first prospect that will be covered in this series is Lucas Raymond. He is a prospect that most people have probably heard of as he is ranked anywhere from 3 to 7 by nearly every scouting service. However, there are some signs that his stock may be falling despite no prospects having played an organized hockey game in over a month. NHL Central Scouting surprisingly has Raymond as the 4th best European skater (behind Stützle, Holtz, and Lundell).
Name: Lucas Raymond
Position: LW / RW
Team: Frölunda (SHL) / Frölunda J20 (SuperElit)
DOB: March 28, 2002
Height and Weight: 5’10.5″ and 161 lbs
Raymond’s 2019-20 Season
Lucas Raymond was placed in an interesting situation in 2019-20 as he was too good for the SuperElit (Sweden’s U20 junior league) after tearing it up as a 16 year-old. So, naturally he was placed in the Sweden’s top league, the SHL. However, he did not see much ice time for Frölunda in the SHL, averaging only 9:48 TOI across 33 games.
His production was a little disappointing in the SHL with 4 goals and 6 assists in those 33 games. I’m not placing too much weight on his SHL production because he was placed in a role with limited minutes and was even seeing 13th forward minutes some nights. It’s hard to get into a groove with inconsistent ice time. Also, it’s important to note that Lucas Raymond was only 17 years old this entire SHL season.
I did a quick little breakdown of points per 60 of 1st round picks who played in the SHL in their draft year. It’s far from perfect because some players received more power play opportunities than others but it provides a somewhat useful picture:
As you can see, Lucas Raymond’s point production was not bad this season considering he was one of the youngest players in his draft year on this chart. You may expect a little more coming from a potential top 5 pick, but I don’t place much weight on production if you are a 17 year-old seeing limited playing time in a pro league.
Raymond also appeared in the 2020 World Juniors where he put up 2 goals and 2 assists in 7 games for Team Sweden. He primarily played on Sweden’s 3rd line alongside Karl Henriksson and fellow draft-eligible prospect, Alexander Holtz.
Raymond saw a few games at the SuperElit level (Sweden’s top junior league) where he recorded 3 goals and 11 assists for a total of 14 points in 9 games. He appeared in some games at this level in March and it was apparent that he was on another level, recording 8 points in his final 3 games.
He may not have been given much ice time in the SHL, but I think Raymond just getting a taste of the faster pace of pro hockey is a good thing. The way he thinks the game in the offensive zone is already refined, he just needs to adjust his tempo to the pace of pro hockey.
The Tracking Data
I tracked the on-ice 5v5 Corsi For % (shot attempts for vs. shot attempts against) the last 4 games I watched of Lucas Raymond, which were two SuperElit games and two SHL games. I thought it was important to take a look at how he performed at the junior level because even though the competition is weaker, the players are closer in age to Raymond.
As you can see, Lucas Raymond really controlled possession at the SuperElit level, which was the expected result. He struggled a bit in the two SHL games I tracked, but he saw very limited ice time in his 21.4 CF% against Brynäs and a majority of shot attempts against came from one single sequence where the 4th line was trapped in their own zone.
Will Scouch tracked a few more of Raymond’s SHL games and found that he had an on-ice CF% of 57.9% which is very impressive for a 17 year-old playing professional hockey. So the possession numbers in the two SHL games I tracked were likely on the lower end.
Another interesting thing that was picked up in Scouch’s data was Raymond’s defensive play in the neutral zone. Only 42.1% of zone transitions against Raymond resulted in a controlled exit or entry. He excels at disrupting play in the neutral zone.
Strong Possession Player
Really everything about Raymond’s game is what a team looks for in today’s NHL and I think he is going to be an analytics darling. He uses his skill and hockey IQ towards an effective, possession-heavy game. There are a few instances of him controlling possession in the offensive zone at the pro level, but we really see this dominance come out nearly every shift at the junior level.
Lucas Raymond is willing to pass up on a low danger shot because he knows he has the skill to create a better one. He’s not going to try to rip a shot through 3 defenders from the point on the power play. He’s not afraid to circle back around in the offensive zone to maintain possession rather than trying to stickhandle through two aggressive forecheckers. Raymond is very calculated about the risks he takes while on the ice.
This play isn’t very eventful, but it’s one that shows us how Raymond thinks on the ice:
Raymond (#33 in red) steps up on the HV71 player in the defensive zone and steals the puck. He attempts to turn this into a breakaway opportunity heading in the other direction, but he has a forward pressuring him from behind, #38 has a jump on him in position to cut off the rush, and #51 is in position to be the last line of defense. The 4th HV71 player on this 4v4 also rushes back to defend Raymond.
There’s a few things Raymond could do here: it’s junior hockey, so he could try to stickhandle through three players and try to create an offensive opportunity or he could dump it in and have a low % chance of recovering the puck in a 2v4 situation. Instead, he decides to pass the puck back to his defenseman which allows his team to retain possession and generate another offensive rush. It may be the easy play, but it’s the smart play.
Here’s another possession play in the SuperElit where we get to see some of the great skill that Raymond has while Frölunda has the power play advantage:
This is an area where Raymond was really fun to watch at the junior level because he would be a pure creator of dangerous offense on the power play. He starts the play in typical Lucas Raymond fashion by winning a puck battle.
He loves drifting up the left wing and attacking through the middle of the ice on the power play. It’s a move that he probably won’t be able to pull off as often at the pro level with less time and space, but it is so dangerous at the junior level.
He’s strong on his edges, keeps an open stance which keeps the defenders at notice. Will he fire off a wrist shot with his quick release or will he feather a pass to an open teammate? He can do both effectively. Raymond has a shooting lane that is closed off before he gets a chance and all passing lanes are closed off in front of the net.
Raymond makes it seems like he is going to circle back behind the net, but he does a quick little pass to himself the boards that fools the defender. He then simply passes the puck up to the point and they go to work trying to generate another dangerous opportunity.
Even though he is the most talented player on the ice, he’s not going to try to be a one man show. He’s an unselfish player who does all of the little things right to help his team maintain possession and create better scoring opportunities.
Smart and Aggressive Defensively
It’s not too often that we talk about a young offensive winger’s ability in his own end, especially at the professional level, but it’s certainly a strong part of Raymond’s game. You always know when his shift is starting because he heads straight towards the opposing puck carrier and applies pressure when they are moving the puck up the ice.
Raymond does not shy away from contact and plays very hard on the backcheck. His effort does not change no matter what the score is, which is very encouraging to see in an elite forward prospect. Raymond’s not the biggest player on the ice at 5’11” and 165 pounds, so he really learned how to be strong with his stick in defensive end. He’s very adept at recovering 50/50 pucks or even just stripping the puck straight from an opponents stick.
I stated earlier that Lucas Raymond is very calculated about the risks he takes on offense, the same applies to his defense. Even with his aggressive backchecking, he’s not the type of player to get caught out of position in his own end. He has the speed to catch up to his man if he is caught back in his offensive zone and he seemingly knows where every other player is on the ice which allows him to pick up a loose assignment in coverage.
At the SuperElit level, the game is not as fast as the pro level and Raymond shined defensively. In juniors, he looked like somebody playing ‘Be A Pro Mode’ on the easiest difficulty level. But, it’s important to note that he continued to show his defensive excellence at the professional level in the SHL. Keep in mind, that he was doing this at 17 years old.
There are plenty of examples where a defensive play or a battle won by Raymond leads to a scoring opportunity (just look at the two plays). Here’s just another example of Raymond just doing the extra things on defense at the junior level:
The HV71 player is trying to exit the zone behind his net while feeling pressure from another Frölunda forward behind. Raymond comes in from the top circle, cut the HV71 puck carrier off with his applied pressure. The puck is freed up and Frölunda gets an open shot on net. It’s the extra stuff with Lucas Raymond that makes all the difference.
Dynamic Offensive Talent
Lucas Raymond isn’t rated as one of the top prospects in the 2020 Draft just because of his heavy possession game and defensive zone awareness. Now obviously those are amazing traits to have, but the thing that makes Raymond such a great prospect is his dynamic ability on offense.
Growing up, Raymond was used to being one of the smaller players on the ice as he has been playing against older competition his entire hockey career in Sweden. This allowed him to focus more on developing a dynamic style of play rather than heavy, “dump-and-chase” style of play.
He has solid straightline speed, but I wouldn’t necessarily define him as a burner. Most of the scouting reports talk about his speed, but it’s not his straightline speed that separates him from the rest of the Draft class. I mean, straightline speed isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things and I don’t rely on it too heavily when scouting. The better thing to focus on is how dynamic a prospect’s skating ability is, which is what makes Raymond such a special skater.
Lucas Raymond has very quick acceleration and can change direction on a dime due to his excellent edgework. He is also able to generate a great deal of speed off his crossovers which allows him to be so dangerous as he cuts towards the middle of the ice. I thought Raymond’s assist vs. Switzerland at the World Juniors really showed off his skating ability:
Quick cut towards the center of the ice, great speed generated off of the cross over, and then that edgework to cut around the sliding defenseman and find Karl Henriksson for the easy goal. That’s a ‘Grade A’ scoring chance created by Raymond’s dynamic skating ability and his great hockey mind.
We get another good look at skating on Lucas Raymond’s SuperElit goal vs. the Leksands J20 team:
The play starts off with Lucas Raymond winning the 50/50 puck battle (a common theme so far). He uses speed to created some separation, but the Leksands defender has a jump on the play and gets back in time. Raymond realizes this and slows down when enters the zone to evaluate the passing options.
He then uses that fantastic edgework to pull off the toe drag move around the defender which builds up the momentum for quick shot right in front. He allows the play to develop and makes the goal look easy.
Raymond’s dynamic ability was really on full display on the power play at the SuperElit level. The power play pretty much ran through him and he was able to set up his teammates with some beautiful scoring opportunities. I really wish that they used him in a bigger role on the power play in the SHL because I think we could’ve seen more out of Raymond at that level.
Here’s just a small sample of Lucas Raymond making penalty killers look silly in juniors:
Ok, here’s one more:
It’s clear that the defenders in this level just can’t keep up with Raymond’s fantastic edgework and quick hands. His quick release make the PKers unsure if he is going to release a quick wrist shot or pull off a toe drag move and find an open teammate. He is able to change speeds so quickly too. His moves are Dahlin-esque as he has a similar type of deception when the puck is on his stick and he loves to use that toe drag move. There must be something in the water in Gothenburg.
Passing and Shooting
When evaluating a prospect’s passing skills, I like two break in down into two parts: vision and ability. They need the vision to be able to identify passing lanes, but they also need the ability: the skill to be able to thread the needle with some beautiful passes.
I think Lucas Raymond has both the vision and ability aspects of passing locked down. Being proficient in both of these categories allows him to hit players with some beautiful passes in dangerous areas of the ice. It allows him to create offense that wouldn’t otherwise be there if the puck wasn’t on his stick. He is truly a special player in this aspect of the game.
Just check out this backhand sauce through the neutral zone vs. Cardiff in the Champions League:
Honestly, this pass was so perfect that I feel like Raymond would have a hard time doing it again, but just having the skill and the vision to pull that off just once is pretty insane. That puck goes through not one, but two players’ sticks, and is placed in the perfect spot for a clean reception.
Here’s another beautiful pass, this time at the SuperElit level:
Unfortunately, his teammate can’t cleanly corral the puck on this play, but this play really shows how skilled Raymond is as a passer. If you give him time and space, he will be able to thread the needle, even if it’s through 3 or 4 players. His passing ability checks off both of the boxes: vision and ability. He is able to do things passing-wise that other prospects cannot and probably will never be able to do.
I think shooting is also a strong part of Raymond’s game, but I would define him as a playmaker, not a volume shooter. He will try to set a teammate up well before he decides to a rip shot from a distance. However, his shot is very effective when he decides to use it.
I’d argue that he is a shooter that relies more on the accuracy of his wrist shot than the velocity, but the things that makes his shot so effective is his quick and deceptive release.
Since he has such great puck skills, the defender is never sure if he is lining up for a shot, setting up a teammate or planning to pull off a toe drag move. If the defender decides to overcommit to the shot, especially on the power play, Raymond will burn them and will make them pay by creating an even more dangerous scoring opportunity.
Below is a shot by Raymond that doesn’t go in, but the rebound creates a goal. He has great shot awareness and will place it low when necessary to create an opportunity off of the rebound:
I think his shot selection is one of the most impressive things about his game and that goes along with his advanced understanding of the game. He always knows when to shoot and where to place the puck when he does. Raymond isn’t going to be one of the players who listens to the fans screaming “shoot” on the power play when there is no clear shooting lane.
I mean Lucas Raymond really has a game with very few weaknesses. His only weaknesses are really just the basic things one would expect from a 5’11”, 17 year-old playing the majority of the year in the men’s league: he needs to get stronger and he needs to adjust to the faster pace of the game.
There were times where he was easily pushed off the puck very easily in the SHL. It’s not that he was playing too soft because he’s one of the most aggressive players on the ice. It’s just that he’s not as big as the other players, but more training will easily fix that issue. He also wasn’t a threat on offense every time he touched the puck like he was in juniors (obviously), but he still had a solid SHL season despite working in a very small, inconsistent role.
These are things that are obviously going to change as Raymond gets older and stronger. Most of the GIFs I used in this article are from juniors and not the pros because the junior players are really his peers in his age group. In fact, he is still younger than most of the players in the SuperElit. He was also just so fun to watch in that league.
When he plays against his age group, he is a clear step or two above everyone else. I really think he would have been able to show more of his magic if he was given a bigger role and more leeway at the professional level, but that may just be me.
There’s really no weaknesses worth worrying about with Lucas Raymond. He may be on the smaller end, but his game masks his lack of size very well. He’s in that category of players who are so skilled that their lack of size doesn’t really matter.
Everything about Lucas Raymond’s game pretty much screams top line, two-way, play-driving winger. At this point, everything about his game is pro ready except for his strength. He may not be able to show his full arsenal of skill at the pro level at a consistent basis just yet, but I believe that will come with time. Even then, he is already so sound defensively that I think he would do just fine in the NHL next season. I still think another season in the SHL, this time with a top six role and power play time, will be the best for his development.
I’ve heard some chatter about Raymond being considered a “safe pick,” but the only reason he’s considered “safe pick” is because he is already such a great hockey player. I don’t think he is ceiling is lower than any other prospect in the 2020 Draft. He is dynamic on offense, sound defensively, and has an advanced understanding of the game. One really cannot ask for much more out of a top draft pick.
Stylistically, I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between Mitch Marner and Lucas Raymond. They are both similarly sized playmakers who see the game in a similar way. However, I think Raymond takes a more cerebral approach to attacking the offensive zone while Marner is more in-your-face when he attacks the zone. I think both styles are effective, Marner is just a bit more flashy in his approach.
Raymond challenges almost every old scouting cliché for a top draft pick. He’s under 6 feet tall. He’s not a center, but can certainly drive play from the wing. His draft production is not the greatest even though he played the majority of the season in the SHL. If every GM were smart, Lucas Raymond would have no chance of slipping out of the top 5. However, we’ve seen players fall because of old scouting clichés before.
I think Lucas Raymond is certainly a top 5 talent in this year’s draft class and would not be surprised if many team’s view him as the 2nd or 3rd best prospect in 2020. If I were the Sabres, I’d be all for drafting him at #3 if they happen to win that pick in the lottery. If he were to fall to 7 or 8, even better. He’s pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered for the Sabres forward group as he’s a pure creator of offense.
Also, if the Sabres draft him, he would also make for a great hair duo alongside Jack Eichel:
Thanks for reading through my long Lucas Raymond scouting report! I’ll be producing some more ‘Draft Profile’ scouting reports as we get closer to the 2020 NHL Draft (whenever that will be). For some more Lucas Raymond content, check out Will Scouch’s awesome scouting report video on Lucas Raymond.
Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter @FutureOfThe716 for more NHL Draft and Buffalo Sabres content.