Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said if rookie Lucas Raymond is ready to play in the NHL everyone will know it.
“You should walk out of a game and feel like he was one of the better players on the ice,” Blashill said. “It should be clear to my wife (Erica) that he should be on the team.”
Blashill clearly was having some fun with his answer. He added: “By the way, my wife, that’s not a slight on her. She knows hockey pretty well. She’s been around a long time. She should be able to pick out who the best players are. “
Blashill’s point is Raymond has to make it obvious that he deserves a spot on the team. He can’t just have a slight advantage over a veteran player. He needs to prove he can have a significant impact, not just look dangerous offensively now and then.
“It’s just the reality of it,” Blashill said. “It shouldn’t be a hard decision. Because here’s the thing – if guys are equal, then you keep your depth by starting a guy like Lucas Raymond in the minors and letting him earn his way back on the team.”
Raymond is only 19 and doesn’t have much professional experience. He has scored 12 goals in 77 Swedish League games. Unlike Joe Veleno or Moritz Seider, Raymond hasn’t yet played for Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League.
“I said earlier this week: Guys trying to grab jobs, you can’t be just as good as the other guy,” Blashill said. “You gotta be way better. When we watch the game, their impact on the game has to be great. How is his impact on the game going to be great? Ultimately, I think he’s a guy who can really be an elite power-play guy.”
Raymond Will Play Several Preseason Games
The expectation is Raymond will play the majority of the exhibition games. The game plan is for veterans to play three or four preseason games and younger players getting enough to prove what they can do.
Blashill said Raymond can draw attention by helping the Detroit Red Wings power-play “look elite when he’s out there.” The Red Wings’ power play ranked 30th out of 31 teams last season at 11.4% efficiency.
“It’s not a one-man show but he can help with that,” Blashill said. “Have the puck on his stick a good amount. If he never has the puck on his stick, it’s hard to make plays. I thought he made probably the best offensive play in the red-and-white game but it wasn’t 10 of them, it was one of them. Find a way to have the puck more either by going to get it yourself, or by making sure you’re facilitating and getting yourself open.”
Undoubtedly, Raymond knows what he needs to do: “Again,” Blashill said, “I think it should be easy for all of us to say, ‘Wow, he was definitely one of the best players on the ice night in and night out.’ That’s how you earn your way on the team.”
Larkin Proof It Can Happen
History says it can be done. “Dylan Larkin did it as a young player,” Blashill said. “Dylan’s different, because he’s a little flashier because of how well he skates. Lucas won’t be quite as flashy. But I think everybody sitting in the stands should be able to walk out saying he was one of the top forwards. Then you’re making a case to be making the team.”
Even if Raymond is sent to the American League, there are multiple paths for a return to Detroit, starting with injuries. Blashill offered no update on Vrana, but if he is out for an extended period, it creates an opening. Also, if Raymond dominates at the AHL level he will get promoted.
At least he is healthy enough to play the exhibition. Jonatan Berggren, another touted Swedish rookie, is still considered day-to-day and won’t play in the opening exhibition game in Chicago.