September 01 2010 09:43AM
This is the first post in a series where Canucks Army will profile various players of interest leading up to the new season.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle this offseason was the retention of break-out youngster Mason Raymond. His 53 points represented a 30 point jump over his previous season. His emergence as a legitimate top 6 presence is a major coup for the organization and is another example of the Canucks developing quality players internally.
A Cochrane, Alberta product (represent!), Raymond spent two seasons ripping up the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) for the Camrose Kodiaks before moving up to Minnesota Duluth of the NCAA. Despite being one of the younger players on the team, Raymond placed second and first in scoring during his two seasons in Minny resprectively, managing a near point-per-game pace over his college career (0.94). Points are notoriously hard to come by in the NCAA, so scoring almost every night is a very real accomplishment, particularly for anyone under 22 years old.
Raymond debuted in the AHL in 2006-07 after the college season ended, scoring four points in 11 games. He would see another 20 games on the farm the next season before being recalled for good by the Canucks. In his NHL debut, Raymond managed a very respectable nine goals and 21 points in 49 games. His sophomore effort was a bit rockier, with Raymond struggling with consistency and bouncing around the line-up. He scored just 23 points in 79 games in 2008-09, causing some to question his ultimate ceiling as an NHLer.
Those questions went away this past year. Raymond landed on the wing of Selke nominee Ryan Kesler and the two-formed a deadly, top-line checking duo. Depsite regularly seeing the oppositions top lines and starting from the defensive end of the rink, both guys managed to efficicently move the puck forward and score career best numbers.
Counting Stats: 25g-28a-53pts
Corsi: +13.88/60 (!)
Zone start: 49.1%
Qual of Comp: 2nd toughest amongst forwards (behind Kesler)
Regular linemates: Kesler, Samuelsson (41% at ES)
While there's some question as to what degree Kesler is driving Raymonds results, it's a good bet that the kid isn't just riding coattails given the diffulty of the assignment and the quality of the outcomes. Meaning - there's little chance that Raymond is merely a passenger on the Kesler express, because there's almost no way they'd be able to keep their heads above water against the big boys if Mason wasn't contributing.
At 25 years old, Raymond is nearing his peak but still has a number of high quality seasons left in him. Even if he doesn't develop much beyond the quantum leap he took last season, Raymond represents a legit top-6 option who can play against anyone at ES and contribute on special teams besides. His blazing speed is an especially potent weapon in the post lock-out NHL and is likely one of the primary reasons he's able to get the puck moving in the right direction.
Raymond is scheduled to make $2.55M this year. There's a good chance he'll again draw the tough assignments alongside Kesler and if he can sustain the gains he made last year (let alone take a step forward) he'll greatly outperform his cap hit.