It seems like the top two spots are set in stone for Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield. After those two, it’s open for argument.
We are going to go with Swedish winger Lucas Raymond.
Name: Lucas Raymond
Date of Birth: March 28, 2002
Weight: 165 lbs
For the past couple of years, Raymond has found himself in the conversation to be one of the top five prospects in the 2020 NHL draft. His scoring ability is evident and he drives the play just as well as any player his age. Out of the top-end prospects in this draft, he is playing against the toughest competition.
Since Raymond is playing in the SHL, he doesn’t receive as much playing time as some of the top prospects in the CHL benefit from — he only averaged 9:48 of ice time per game this year. Just twice did Raymond play over 13 minutes this season and he finished the season playing less than five minutes in two of his final four games. There was not a lot of powerplay opportunities for Raymond this season but if he returns to Sweden, I would expect to see a huge jump in his numbers there as he was 17th in team scoring but 21st in average ice time.
It’s tough to decide what is Raymond’s best skill as he is pretty good at everything in the offensive zone. That being said, the thing that intrigues me the most about his game is his playmaking ability. He sees the ice very well and can control the puck under pressure to wait out a defender. When Raymond played in the SuperElit league this year, he was simply excellent, putting up over a point per game.
On many of the odd-man rushes that he received in the SHL, he looked to be a pass-first player. His shot isn’t bad, it’s accurate but doesn’t pop off the screen like some of these bigger and stronger top-end prospects. His accurate shot and passing ability will be excellent for any team’s powerplay. I think this is where his skills will shine at the NHL level. He can run his strong side with the ability to walk in to shoot or find a teammate in the bumper position for a quick one-timer.
Here’s what the scouts are saying:
The “Next Great Swede” is a very complete player who makes a difference in all three zones. He is a reliable player in the defensive zone, using his high-IQ and skating to break up plays and turn them up the ice. He isn’t a burner but he is a very good skater who moves fluidly and intelligently all over the ice. His bread and butter is his playmaking as he is able to read his opponents like a book at times and set his teammates up for dangerous opportunities. He has a good shot as well but used it far too infrequently for my liking this year in the SHL.
-Toni Ferrari, DobberProspects
He was one of the smartest 16-year-old hockey players I’ve ever seen. His ability to wait out defenses and find teammates with ridiculous passes was something that stood out every time I watched him. If you want an elite playmaker, Raymond is your guy. He scored the golden goal at the U18s as an underage player.
-Corey Pronman, TheAthletic
The only thing keeping Raymond away from being an impact player next season would be his size and strength. He is not small but does lack some of the strength needed to play a full NHL season. I would expect him to return to the SHL next year and try to put on size. He will get much more ice time and be able to be an impactful player at 5-on-5.
Raymond recently told TSN’s Mark Masters that he thinks he is a mix of Mitch Marner and Artemi Panarin.
There’s a lot to like about Raymond and I think he is a safe pick for any team if they are looking for a future top-six player who will be at his best with the man advantage. He had a three point game in the SHL this year where he looked to gain some more trust and ice time from the coaching staff.
From a Canucks perspective, there’s no way they are getting Raymond but he would be the perfect player to be alongside what they are putting together here with the first powerplay unit.
Next season will be the big tell on Raymond, but for now, he looks like a surefire top prospect and should definitely go in the top five on the first day of the draft.