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You Can Stop Worrying About Lucas Raymond

If you take a look at tweets mentioning Lucas Raymond during the months of November and December, you will find a lot of people freaking out over his “sophomore slump”. And to be honest, you can understand why. He didn’t score a goal in his first seven games of the season and had just two assists. After finally recovering and scoring six goals in his next seven games, he then had just one goal over his next 15 games. He didn’t quite look like the same player Red Wings fans loved watching a season ago.

Well, that slump has come to an end and he’s playing just as well if not better than he did at any time last season. At the halfway mark of the year, he has 13 goals and 17 assists. He’s on pace to have three more goals than last season’s final total of 23. He’s also on pace for 60 points which would surpass his rookie year total. His shooting percentage is up from 12.5% last season to 18.6%. He’s shooting less than last year, but he’s taking advantage of his opportunities a lot better.

Razor Getting Sharper

His recent play is the reason for this boost to his stats. With 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 just 16 points in his prior 29 games. This stretch has played a big part in the team recovering 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 in each game en route to 7-5 and 4-1 wins.

So what has changed? First of all, his shooting percentage is through the roof. Through his first 29 games, his shooting percentage was 13.0% which, to be fair, was above his rookie season’s total. However, his shooting percentage in the last 12 games is a whopping 37.5% with six goals scored on only 16 shots. And that last number is what’s a bit staggering. Only 16 shots in 12 games. And yet, he has scored six goals in that stretch. He’s not getting a lot of opportunities to shoot the puck, but when he does, they’re prime opportunities that he takes advantage of.

He gets those chances by putting himself in a prime scoring position. His ability to fill lanes on the rush or get in the scoring areas when set up in the zone is one of the best on the team. In fact, each of those examples was evident in the last two goals he scored.

His success on the power play has increased as well, especially with moving the puck. He has five assists on the power play in the last 12 games alone and his 14 power-play points for the season are now just four away from his total from last year. His numbers at 5v5 still aren’t there yet, but he is getting better. His five even-strength goals in the last 12 games is more than he had during the first 29 games and his eight even strength points matches his total from that time.

So, What’s Next?

The biggest question going forward this season is, can he keep up the consistency? He has been streaky this season, but it certainly looks like what he’s on 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 will be, can he reach that length of consistency? And if he does, can he keep going? He has the potential to be a 90+ point scorer in this league, but that consistency will be key.

It’ll also be interesting what ends up forming around him in terms of his forwards. He has played the majority of his career with Dylan Larkin, who is in a contract year. While most people don’t see any way that the Red Wings captain will leave Detroit this offseason, it is something that’ll be on people’s minds. The bigger question is who ends up joining them on their line? We’ve seen a variety of players over the last two seasons from Bertuzzi to Perron to Kubalik to Berggren.

The younger guys like the aforementioned Berggren are the interesting ones for me. We’ve seen Berggren be excellent this year. Does a playmaker like him allow for Raymond to be a better goal-scorer? Or look at someone like Elmer Soderblom who has played well when in Detroit this year. Can his size and ability to create space open up more areas for Raymond?

Or even look outside of the Detroit system right now at someone like Carter Mazur, who is second in all of NCAA with 17 goals in 24 games. Or look at Marco Kasper, who can play both center and left-wing and currently has the exact same stat line that Raymond had in his last season in Frolunda (I’m not joking by the way. Kasper has the exact same game, goal and assists totals as Raymond finished his last season in the SHL with at the time of writing this). Both of those players have futures in Detroit, and working with Raymond could benefit both of those players as well as Razor.

The point is, a lot of what a player’s career is dictated by is not just their skillset. It’s who they’re playing with too. You need to build chemistry, but you also need skilled players that complement each other. So when you look at Raymond’s future, you don’t just look at how he’s improving, which he is by the way. You look at who is being paired with him, and while his wing partner hasn’t been found yet, there are a lot of options already drafted by Detroit who can potentially fill that 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 a lot of you are like me who saw his struggles and knew he’d find his way out of it. But there was way too much negativity around a 20-year-old in his second NHL season who just needs a bit of time and a little bit of help. Let Coach Lalonde do his thing, let Stevie Y do his thing and, well, let Razor do his thing. I promise you, you’ll feel a lot better because of it.

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