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Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond aims to return bigger, stronger, faster

Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond aims to return bigger, stronger, faster

Lucas Raymond’s rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings was rewarding personally, tough team-wise. It was longer and more grueling than any he had experienced.

When he reflected on it, he described it as a “really fun first season.”

“Of course, the results weren’t as we wanted, but for me personally I really enjoyed it,” Raymond said. “We had a great team that made it easy for me to come in and I was welcomed really quick. Coming into training camp I didn’t expect much. I just had the mindset to try to make the team, and when I did that, it was to start looking forward and performing on the ice.”

Raymond, who turned 20 on March 28, was third among NHL rookies with 57 points, tied for second with 23 goals. He didn’t join teammate Moritz Seider as a Calder Trophy finalist as rookie of the year, but he exceeded expectations.

The fourth overall pick from 2020 was expected to spend his first season in North America developing in Grand Rapids. He instead played almost exclusively on the top line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, facing opponents’ top players or best checkers regularly.

“In the beginning especially, it was a little surreal playing against guys you’d grown up watching, to all of a sudden be next to them on a face-off, or being in a battle in the corner,” Raymond said. “At the same time, once you’re out there, I don’t really think about it that much because you have so much else to think about. But that’s exciting, especially coming to Detroit, a team that I’ve grown up watching with such a rich history with Swedes and so many great players.”

His first 82-game season featured far more travel, across multiple time zones, than he experienced in Sweden. He handled it well, one of only three Red Wings to appear in every game.

“I think the tough part with the tight schedule is to always be there,” Raymond said. “Sometimes you don’t feel great, sometimes you do feel great. Sometimes you don’t feel so good coming into the game and then you feel great on the ice. Other times you feel great coming into the game and then you go out there and you don’t feel good. I’m still figuring that part out. It makes it so much easier when you have a team like we did that made it a lot easier for me on the ice, in the locker room, in the gym. We were very determined, but once we got off the ice, we had fun.”

Missing the playoffs, something he wasn’t accustomed to in Sweden, wasn’t easy.

“The last part, when we were out of playoff contention, was tough,” Raymond said. “We were in a great spot in the beginning of the season and then lost it a little bit in the second half. We have such a competitive group, and I would love to be in the playoffs. But the mindset now is just to regroup, have a good summer and go at it next year determined to make the playoffs.”

The season was draining. That is why he declined an invitation to play for Sweden at the World Championship, which starts Friday in Finland.

“It was a very tough decision because you always want to play for your national team, especially in a tournament that big, but I didn’t have much left in the tank,” Raymond said. “I want to have a good summer to be prepared for next year. I feel now I get more time and I can prepare the way I want to.”

His focus is to return bigger and stronger.

“I think that comes pretty naturally because I’m still very young, I am still developing physically,” Raymond said. “And then I’ll try to work on my skating, to be able to come out of tight corners with speed.”

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