Lucas Raymond is learning valuable lessons in his first NHL season with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s getting some schooling in another area of late. The rookie leftt-winger is enduring the first goal-scoring slump of his NHL career.
It’s been 11 games without a goal since Raymond was denting the twine with his 10th goal of the season on December 1 against the Seattle Kraken. He’s gone more than a month since without illuminating a single red lamp of his own doing.
Is it time to worry about Raymond? Has the rookie forward hit the proverbial wall?
The level of concern seems to vary depending upon who is involved in the discussion. The prevailing thought process among fans and the media covering the team is a narrative that NHL opponents are now aware of the dangers that Raymond presents. Thus, they are devoting more energy and gameplanning into putting the clamps down on the 19-year-old rookie.
Raymond Slumping? Blashill Doesn’t Buy It
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, for one, isn’t buying into that theory.
“I think one of the challenges that Lucas has is he’s playing on our top line, which means you’re generally getting the other team’s best defensive players, both up front and on the back end,” Blashill said. “I think he’s had that all season, to be honest with you.
— NHL (@NHL) January 5, 2022
“Are teams focusing on him more? I think they’ve focused on him all year. When you play on that top line, that’s the reality of it.”
While in the mdist of this drought, Raymond has relinquished the NHL rookie goal-scoring lead to left-winger Tanner Jeannot of the Nashville Predators. Jeannot registered his 11th goal of the season on Saturday.
Raymond Relinquishes Rookie Goal-Scoring Lead
However, with 10-19-29 totals, Raymond still is maintaining his grasp on the NHL rookie scoring lead by three points over Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras. The two will go head-to-head for the first time in the NHL on Sunday night at the Honda Center.
Although he isn’t scoring, to be making a suggestion that Raymond still isn’t making contributions toward the Red Wings offense would be pure folly. He’s dished out seven assists over the past nine games. All three members of Detroit’s top line remain hot. Captain Dylan Larkin is showing 6-4-10 totals over the past seven games. Right-winger Tyler Bertuzzi has scored five goals in the past five games.
“I’m not worried at all about where Lucas’ game is at,” Blashill said. “There’s ebbs and flows to the season. I think very early in the season he had a point total per game that’s gonna be tough to keep up. There’s gonna be ebbs and flows but again, I see him still getting chances.”
Certainly, it was Raymond’s explosive launching of his NHL career that set the expectations bar higher for him. He was averaging a point per game. It simply wasn’t going to be feasible that he’d be able to maintain that pace.
“You just gotta remind yourself sometimes that he’s still 19,” Red Wings center Pius Suter said. “It’s pretty crazy. He has so much skill and a good shot and you can see that when he’s going, he’s going really good.”
At 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Raymond is going to get dominated physically at times. Fortunately for him, his high level of hockey IQ enables Raymond to avoid situations where he’ll be physically overmatched.
“I don’t think Lucas right now at his age is a guy that’s going to physically dominate games,” Blashill said. “I think he’s gonna improve in that area as he gets stronger and quicker. But I think he’s still getting chances using his mind and doing a good job and always has been a real effective two-way winning-type player. “
Will He Wear Down?
There’s also the legitimate concern that like many rookies, the grind of the NHL schedule will take a tool on Raymond. However, it’s worth noting that when taking into account competitions he played in at all levels, Raymond skated in 70 games during the 2018-19 campaign. Certanly, they weren’t 70 NHL games. However, a 70-game slate keeps a fellow busy regardless.
Still, wear and tear on both their physical and mental states is a concern the Red Wings have for both of their rookie sensations – Raymond and defenseman Moritz Seider. That’s going to be a focal point during January and February. Thanks to COVID-19 postponements, the Red Wings figure to be playing almost every other day over the next two months.
lucas raymond singing to take me home, country roads? he’s just like me fr pic.twitter.com/7Z3W0qH1FI
— natalie ☃️ (@willymarner) January 5, 2022
“I think one of the things that both those guys need to do is learn how to play when you’re tired,” Blashill said. “They both have good brains to be able to do that but that’s a huge factor in this league, is being able to play when you don’t feel your best.”
As to what to expect from Raymond going forward, Blashill isn’t about to assign any numerical expectations to his rookie winger.
“I’m not going to get ahead of myself right now,” Blashill said. “He’s done a really good job so far. He’s a good player. There’s zero doubt. Really smart, he plays the right way. And he’s been able to produce while also playing the right way.
“I think that’s the biggest key. That’s why he’s been so transferable He doesn’t need to cheat to create offense. He earns ice time.”