Lucas Raymond DET scratching the surface

OSTRAVA, Czechia -- Lucas Raymond knows his Detroit Red Wings are close.

The 22-year-old forward also understands he has more to give to help put them over the top.

Raymond, who led the Red Wings in scoring with 72 points (31 goals, 41 assists) in 82 games this season, is hoping to elevate his game further to help squash a Stanley Cup Playoffs drought that has extended into its eighth season.

"I think coming into this year I was maybe not as satisfied with my last year as I wanted to," Raymond said from the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia, where he's representing Sweden. "I felt good. I think just getting one year older, one year more mature on and off the ice, I think that helped a lot just getting the experience, getting to know your body and mind. It felt good.

"Its was a good step."

The Red Wings (41-32-9) were eliminated from playoff contention on the third-to-last day of the season; the Washington Capitals and Detroit each finished with 91 points, but the Capitals earned the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with the tiebreaker, 36-27, in regulation wins.

Raymond certainly did his part to try to will the Red Wings into that final postseason spot in the East; he finished the season with 11 points (six goals, five assists) in a six-game point streak.

"I just look at the stretch run that we had fighting for the playoffs," said Detroit defenseman Jeff Petry, who is representing Team USA at the World Championship. "He stepped up big for us. He was competing every night. He was driving the pace for our team. I think he took some big steps last season.

"There's a long way to go. He's a very talented player that's just scratching the surface. There's going to be a lot of talent that's coming out in him."

Raymond at 2024 Worlds

Raymond blossomed in his third season with the Red Wings, setting NHL career-highs in goals (31), assists (41) and points (72).

His emergence did not go unnoticed in the NHL.

"It's tough to play against him," said Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, now Raymond's teammate with Sweden. "He had a phenomenal year, carried Detroit on his back, it felt like. It's great to have him on our side, get to know him a little bit, and see up close all the skill that he has."

According to Hedman, who won the Norris Trophy, voted as the NHL's top defenseman in 2018, Raymond has become a topic of discussion in pre-scouting meetings prior to facing the Red Wings.

"One hundred percent," Hedman said. "That's just common knowledge. When you go against top players like that you emphasize playing tough against him. It's just fun to see him go out there and execute plays."

MTL@DET: Raymond blasts in the game-winning goal in overtime

It speaks to the importance Raymond, a pending restricted free agent, has on Detroit's future as part of a core that also features captain Dylan Larkin, 27, and defenseman Moritz Seider, 23.

"I think you look at the young guys we do have, he's the main part of that," Petry said. "You get Larkin, 'Mo' and him, and those two forwards drive the pace and bring guys along. That's what a good team needs."

Raymond earned a second straight invitation to represent Sweden at the 2024 Worlds, this time as an alternate captain after tying for second in team scoring in 2023 with eight points (two goals, six assists) in eight games.

"It's special for sure," Raymond said. "It means a lot. I think a lot of guys take pride in representing their country and to be able to wear an 'A' is a good feeling."

It's a character that didn't go unearned.

"He deserves to have one," Hedman said. "He plays with his heart on his sleeve. He's coming up, he's got a big contract coming up, and he was really pushing for this. We're super excited about having him here. He really wanted to be here, and he deserves that."

When his experience helping lead Sweden ends, Raymond hopes to be a part of the solution for getting the Red Wings back into the playoffs for the first time since 2015-16.

"I'm going to try to score even more, I guess," Raymond said. "No, I'm still young. I'm still developing my body. The physical aspect is one point, just growing there. I want to keep developing my shot and my skating.

"I still feel I have a lot left to develop and improve."