Lucas Raymond quietly having a breakout season for the Detroit Red Wings

Lucas Raymond has quietly been having a breakout season in his third campaign with the Detroit Red Wings.
Nashville Predators v Detroit Red Wings
Nashville Predators v Detroit Red Wings / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

After having one of the worst seasons in team history during the 2019-20 campaign, it felt like a certainty that the Detroit Red Wings would finally get a first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL entry draft. They were definitely the worst team in the league, and they had not picked first overall since 1986 when they picked Joe Murphy. They did not win the draft lottery and were actually moved down the maximum of three spots, ending up with the fourth overall pick.

It felt like the Detroit Red Wings had lost the lottery for another year and would get the short end of the stick. It actually turned out that they had won the lottery when they selected Lucas Raymond 4th overall. Ever since joining the team, he has impacted the Detroit Red Wings. Raymond started out big, making the opening night roster for the '21-22 season opener. He proved he was legit when he went on to play all 82 regular season games that year, ending up with 23 goals and 34 assists for a total of 57 points.

Raymond took a small step backward in his second pro season. It's not uncommon to see a young player have a sophomore slump as the league figures out their game and finds ways to make life harder in their second season. He was getting roughed up on the ice and clearly earned the attention of the other teams, as shutting him down appeared to be a focus. His point totals dropped to 17 goals and 28 assists for 45 points, partially from missing some games due to being injured.

During the offseason, he went to work on addressing the issues that held him back last season and put on 12 pounds of muscle while improving his game. Based on his listed current weight of 188 lbs, that was about a 7% increase in weight over a single offseason! This extra size was meant to help in many ways, with the focus being on bringing some toughness to his game that he was going to need to excel in this league.

Detroit Red Wings forward Lucas Raymond is quietly having a breakout season.

With all the great offseason moves that Steve Yzerman made this year, it was easy to get caught up in the hype and look right past Lucas Raymond since he was not new to the team. Looking at his stats, he is on track to have his best season yet. After playing 61 games he is currently sitting at 17 goals and 34 assists for 51 points putting him not far off a point per game scoring pace. His offseason work has been noticeable on both ends of the ice.

As long as he can play the rest of the season, it shouldn't be a problem to at least match his rookie season goal total of 23. He has already matched that season's assist total at 34, so he will certainly surpass that mark. What makes these numbers more impressive to me this season is that he is playing on a better team than he was in the '21-22 season with slightly less average ice time. When you're on a struggling team, it can be easier to shine. Most of this season he has been playing on the second line.

His additional size and strength have also been noticeable in all aspects of his game. The most important place you see it is keeping possession of the puck. I've noticed that he is much harder to push off the puck this year, and it's helping him with his playmaking, resulting in the increased assists. Raymond also does a better job creating space and time for himself, providing better scoring opportunities. There is also less pushing around of Raymond this season. He is still a target for other teams but is pushing back and dealing with it much better.

If the Red Wings had not been bumped down the picking order by the draft lottery in 2020, they likely would have picked Alexis Lafrenière since he had so much hype surrounding him at the time. In my opinion, the Wings got the better player. I still believe that Raymond was the player that the Wings needed to draft that season, and he will be a huge part of the team's future. Now, Yzerman just needs to take care of his new contract over the offseason, as his entry-level contract is expiring. With a few other key players contracts ending, it will be interesting to see how everything is handled.