If you take a look at the tweets mentioning Lucas Raymond during November and December, you’ll find a lot of people freaking out about his “sophomore slump.” And to be honest, you can understand why. He hasn’t scored in his first seven matches this season and has only assisted two. After finally recovering and scoring six goals in his next seven matches, he then only had one goal over his next 15 matches. He didn’t look quite like the same player Red Wings fans loved to see a season ago.
Well, that slump is over and he’s playing as well if not better than he did at any time last season. At the midpoint of the year, he had 13 goals and 17 assists. He’s on track to score three more goals than last season’s final total of 23. He’s also on track for 60 points which would surpass his rookie year total. Shooting percentage has increased from 12.5% last season to 18.6%. He shoots less than last year, but he takes his chances much better.
The blade is getting sharper
His last play is the reason for this boost to his stats. Thanks to his goal against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night, he now has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his last 12 games. He had only 16 points in his previous 29 games. This stretch played a huge role in the team’s recovery from their six-game losing streak in mid-December. The biggest example of this was back-to-back games against Winnipeg and Toronto. He had a goal and two assists per game en route to a 7-5, 4-1 victory.
So what has changed? First of all, the percentage shot through the roof. Through his first 29 games, his shooting percentage was 13.0% which, to be fair, was higher than his rookie season total. However, his shooting percentage in his last 12 matches is 37.5% as he has scored six goals on just 16 shots. And that last number is what’s a bit startling. Only 16 shots in 12 games. However, he did kick six goals in this run. He doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to shoot the puck, but when he does, they are major opportunities that he takes advantage of.
He gets these opportunities by putting himself in an excellent scoring position. His ability to fill lanes in a rush or get into scoring zones when in the zone is considered one of the best on the team. In fact, each of these examples was evident in the last two goals he scored.
His success in the power play also increased, especially with the puck. He has five power play assists in just the last 12 games, and his 14 power play points for the season are just four points short of last year’s point total. His 5v5 numbers are still not quite there yet, but he’s getting better. His five goals at equal strength in the last 12 games is more than he had during his first 29 matches, and his eight strengths match his goal total since that time.
So what’s next?
The biggest question going forward this season is, can he maintain consistency? He’s been sweaty this season, but it sure looks like what he’s doing now is no longer a streak. It’s his most consistent play since the first two months of his career when he had 22 points in 23 games. In fact, I’d say he’s playing better now than he was then. The question would be, can he reach that length of consistency? And if he does, can he continue? He has the potential to be the 90+ point scorer in this league, but that consistency will be key.
It will also be interesting what he ends up getting around in terms of attackers. He’s played most of his career with Dylan Larkin, who is on a contract year. While most people are by no means envisioning the Red Wings captain leaving Detroit this season, it is something that will be on people’s minds. The bigger question is who will join them on their side? We’ve seen a variety of players over the past two seasons from Bertuzzi to Peron to Kubalek to Bergen.
The younger guys like the aforementioned Peregrine are the interesting ones to me. We have seen that Peregrine has been excellent this year. Would a playmaker like him allow Raymond to be the top scorer? Or look at someone like Elmer Soderblom who played really well in Detroit this year. Could his size and ability to create space open up more areas for Raymond?
Or even look outside of the Detroit system now to someone like Carter Mazur, who ranks second in all NCAA with 17 goals in 24 games. Or look at Marco Casper, who can play both wing and left positions and currently has the same baseline that Raymond had in his last season in Frolunda (I’m not kidding btw. Casper has the same game, goal and assists totals as Raymond finished his last season in the SHL at at the time of writing). They both have futures in Detroit, and working with Raymond could benefit both players as well as the Razors.
The point is, a lot of what a player’s career is dictated by is not just their skill set. It’s who they play with, too. You need to build chemistry, but you also need skilled players who complement each other. So when you look at Raymond’s future, you don’t just look at how he’s getting better, which by the way. You look at who he’s being paired with, and while his wing partner hasn’t been found yet, there are plenty of options Detroit has already lined up that could potentially fill the role.
So, with all that said, please stop worrying about Lucas Raymond if you haven’t yet. I was never worried about him and I know there are many of you like me who watched his struggles and knew he would find his way out of it. But there’s been a lot of negativity about a 20-year-old in his second season in the NHL who just needs a little time and a little help. Let Coach Lalonde do his thing, let Stevie Way do his thing, and, well, let Razor do his thing. I promise you, you will feel so much better because of it.