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2020 NHL Draft Top Prospects: Despite a tough season, Lucas Raymond should be selected early

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The possibility of moving the winger to centre may entice some NHL clubs during the selection process.

2020 IIHF World U20 Championship, quarter-finals: Sweden vs Czech Republic Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

Frölunda’s lineup was stacked this year. Even if the team struggled, head coach Roger Rönnberg put his trust in his experienced players, and more often than not Lucas Raymond was left at the side of the ice. It really didn’t help that Raymond contracted a virus and struggled with his health before the World Junior Championship.

When he got the chance, he made sure that he showed his hockey IQ, his soft hands, and vision.

What really stands out in regard to Raymond is his hockey sense. While he is listed as a winger, Sweden’s U20 coach, Tomas Montén, explained to Eyes On The Prize that Raymond was to be the reserve centre for Sweden in the WJC. Mr. Montén also said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL team that drafts Raymond will look to play him down the middle too, much in the same way as Vancouver has succeeded with Elias Pettersson.

Elite Prospects

Raymond’s work ethic allows him to play well in all zones, but his hockey IQ means that his relentless forecheck comes with the added bonus of great puck-retrieval and interception, something that was used in the Swedish U20 league during the 2019 season with devastating effect.

Skating-wise Raymond is fast, both out of the blocks and with his top speed. He thinks the game at the same speed and can turn a corner in a millisecond while still keeping control of the puck with his smooth hands. He can either use the space created to send a crafty pass to an open teammate or release a heavy and powerful wrist shot that is difficult to read for the goalie as his strong wrists can change the direction of the shot at the last second.

While primarily being an offensive threat, Raymond can also be used in defence, and all the skills mentioned make him an interesting penalty-killer.

Strengths

Raymond’s hockey IQ is high and it’s most apparent in his vision for the game, which is extremely good. So good, in fact, that he will replace Frölunda’s scoring leader, Ryan Lasch, on the first power play, and Coach Rönnberg might possibly use him on the first line during five-on-five play.

Raymond has a great shot and can place it more or less where he wants. The fact that his shot is so good means that defenders go hard into Raymond’s sphere to take away the opportunity. However, this means that Raymond can use his mind, vision, and hands to spring a teammate in an open slot with a flick of his wrists.

He also cherishes the spotlight and the big games. It was Raymond who scored a hat trick in the World U18 final against Russia last year and the tournament-winner in overtime.

Weaknesses

Elite Prospects lists Raymond at 5’10” and 165 pounds, which would force many teams to overlook him. However, after recently meeting Raymond, those numbers are incorrect. He is closer to six feet and has put on more muscle than he had at the start of the season. Still, Raymond is a bit on the small side and has been pushed around at times when he played against men in the SHL.

Frölunda’s summer training is known for its intensity, and there is no doubt that Raymond will add to his frame. The question is if he will lose some of his excellent skating and balance while building for his future career.

Current Rankings

Elite Prospects: #4
Future Considerations: #4
Hockey Prospect: #6
ISS Hockey: #5
McKeen’s Hockey: #4
McKenzie/TSN: #5
NHL Central Scouting: #4 (European skaters)

Discussion

Raymond was a top-three pick before the season, but a season derailed by illness and not having a good chance in Frölunda’s SHL squad lowered his projection. It should be pointed out that nowhere have there been any rumours of problems with his character. Raymond has continued to work hard, theoretically with Frölunda’s playbook and physically when he has had the opportunity. He has never said a negative word about his role with the team, something that points to a strong mature young man.

He should still be a top-five pick, even if scouts and media have put other players before him due to his lack of production. The fact that he was ill and that Frölunda had a stacked team seems to have escaped the discussion.

While Raymond has ‘lost’ time in his development, it doesn’t mean that he is less of a player. He has elite hockey sense, amazing vision, quick thinking, and great skating. Adding in that he is a player for the big games, it should mean he is still a top prospect in the draft. While Alexander Holtz’s numbers are higher in the SHL, Raymond is more of a complete player and he should go higher than his countryman.

The possibility of moving Raymond to centre in the future should entice a few clubs in the NHL, and it could lead to Raymond making a surge up draft boards in some NHL departments.

Relevant podcast:

How good is Lucas Raymond? - Tomas Montén (Sweden’s WJC coach), Roger Rönnberg (Frölunda HC’s coach) and Johan Rylander (Gothenburg Post’s beat writer for Frölunda) tries to answer that question.

You can follow Johan Rylander on Twitter for Frölunda, and Mattias Norlinder, news.