Photo courtesy of https://omni.se/
Ten minutes and fifteen seconds. That’s the average amount of ice time that Lucas Raymond is playing when in the lineup with Frölunda. In that time, Raymond has just one goal and two assists through 14 games with his primary team in the SHL. For a prospect in his NHL Draft year and hoping to cement himself as a sure-fire top-three pick and a possible challenger as the number one, this season hasn’t gone as planned for the silky smooth forward. He’s been sent back to the SuperElit once already and will likely see more time in the Swedish junior league this season.
There has been so much debate about what it all means lately and all seemed to come to a head recently online with people from both sides of the debate stating their claim as to why Raymond is or isn’t a top-three prospect anymore. So let’s dive into some of the numbers, find out what Raymond is doing and what can be done to help right the ship of one of this year’s most promising draft prospects.
How is Raymond Playing?
To put it simply, he’s been good. Despite his minuscule ice-time, Raymond is driving results during that time. Virtually everything that he can control, he’s controlled well and driven play while on the ice. He has dominated possession with a 58.25 CF% (Corsi For Percentage) and his individual shot metrics are positive as well. By all metrics, Raymond is playing a positive role on the ice when given the opportunity. He’s was sent down to the SuperElit, Swedish junior league, for a stint this year and produced at over a point-per-game rate, proving that he has advanced beyond the league after putting up 48 points in 37 games last season.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the fancy stats and analytics, the eye test has been positive for Raymond as well. He has shown off his high-end skill and speed in transition and in the offensive zone. Raymond is a dynamic player who is among the best skaters in this draft and pairs the elite skating with a high-end skill set. He is billed as a playmaker but has a sneaky wrist shot that plays up because of how quick his release is. His offensive IQ is elite in an elite draft class. Plays like the one above are able to showcase just how good he can be when given the opportunity. It is evident that Raymond has a high-end skill set based on the eye test and the analytics back that up. If you would like a bit more of an in-depth profile on Lucas Raymond, check out his Dobber Prospects profile.
Opportunity Knocks, Just Not for Raymond
The biggest issue with Lucas Raymond’s year is the simple fact that he hasn’t been given a legitimate opportunity to produce. Of players that have played at least 10 games, Raymond ranks 18th out of 21 players on Frölunda. Among forwards, he ranks 13th among 15 players. Raymond is almost assuredly good enough to play in the top-nine on Frölunda, but the fact of the matter is that Frölunda’s coach, Roger Rönnberg, doesn’t seem to think that Raymond is a fit with this team at the moment.
Possibly the strangest thing about his situation with Frölunda and Roger Rönnberg is the fact they haven’t really given Raymond any powerplay time. The powerplay is the spot you put a player like Raymond, who you may not feel is ready to contribute in a major way at five-on-five so that he can take advatage of the extra time and space to make a difference on the scoreboard. His slick puck skills and smooth skating are tools that he can use to exploit defenses with the man advantage and coach Rönnberg hasn’t found a way to take advantage of a top-5 dynamic powerplay skillset on this team.
What Are Raymond’s Options
We can first take a few options off the table. North America is pretty much off the table. His Canadian Hockey League (CHL) rights are owned by the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and despite playing time being readily available in the OHL, especially on a Steelheads team that could use a boost, he almost certainly will not be making the trip across the pond. If he isn’t coming over for a team in the CHL, it’s all but certain the USHL is out of the question as well.
A loan/trade to another team in the SHL is certainly possible. He could go to another team and play up in the lineup without question. Frölunda is a team that is looking to compete for a championship and generally, young players aren’t in the plans for teams like that. While this may be the best option for Raymond himself, as he would get a shot at continuing to play in the SHL, it’s highly unlikely that he would be loaned out or outright traded to a competitor in the SHL, although it’s not completely unheard of.
Photo courtesy of hockeymagasinet.com
Now we get to a couple of options that seem to be a bit more realistic. Raymond could be loaned to a team in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier men’s league. This would allow the young Swede to continue playing with men, at a higher level than the SuperElit. He would likely get some valuable ice-time as he would step into just about any team and be among their best players. He would play a larger role, play on special teams and produce at a higher rate. This would remove Raymond from Frölunda and give him a new lease on life, playing hockey in a different organization for the first time in years, having played with Frölunda’s U16 program since the 2014-15 season as a 12-year-old. This option is probably the most realistic option if Raymond is going to be playing for a different team, but it is not the most likely option.
What is most likely to occur is whats been happening since the start of the season. Raymond can play minimal minutes with Frölunda, hopefully earning Rönnberg’s trust over the year which would help him earn more playing time. In the meantime, he could jump up and down from the SuperElit to the SHL and back. He’s already had one stint in the SuperElit which went well. This situation is exactly where Raymond is now. It’s not ideal, but it’s far from the worst situation he could be in. He will almost assuredly be loaned out to the World Junior team in December where he will likely play a big role with the Swedish U20 team.
Moving on Down?
The big question we all have to ask ourselves is, “Should we move Lucas Raymond down in rankings?” to which I answer no. At this point, Raymond has done enough in his limited playing time and the SuperElit play to justify leaving him where you had him a month ago. There has yet to be a reason to move Raymond down rankings as of yet outside of other prospects performing above expectations. There has been a rise of players such as Tim Stützle and Anton Lundell, but neither seems to have done enough to overtake Raymond in NHL Draft rankings. Quinton Byfield has exceeded expectations to this point so moving him ahead of Raymond, or keeping him ahead, is something that wouldn’t be out of the question.
Punishing Raymond for his lack of opportunity is hasty. If you had concerns about his production at five-on-five last season, then you should have had him moved down already. Lucas Raymond has a top-three skillset in this draft class and he could end up being the best player in this draft if everything breaks right for him. You’ll regret if you lower him at this point. If he’s still not playing in February, you can worry. At that point, he could suffer some setbacks in his development due to a lack of playing time. Until that point, just enjoy the World Juniors, Raymond is going to put on a show.
Thanks for joining me for my mid-week Ramblings! This week I addressed a hot button issue, let me know what you think of the Lucas Raymond situation. Feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out my newest project, Shift Work: Anton Lundell, where I do a shift-by-shift analysis of Lundell’s game and figure out what makes him a top-five prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. Until next time, enjoy the rest of the Canada-Russia series and the rest of the hockey around the world!