One of the biggest wild cards heading into the 2009-10 season will be Mason Raymond. After a mildly impressive rookie season in 07-08, Raymond was supposed to take the next step in the 08-09 season. He started well, scoring 10 points in his first 13 games on the second line. After that, he sputtered, ending the season with an unimpressive 23 points in 72 games. The former 2nd round pick was shuffled in and out of the lineup, and between lines. He seemed to find a bit of a home on the third line towards the end of the season, with Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier. Regardless, he is supposed to be a scorer, and failed to produce enough offence last season.
So what can we expect this season? Things could go in a lot of different directions. If the team doesn’t make a move, then one of Raymond, Kyle Wellwood, or Cody Hodgson will see time in the press box or on the 4th line. But don’t bet on the golden boy Hodgson being in the press box. Furthermore, if Michael Grabner makes the team, that will bump one more player down the depth chart. It is time for Raymond to sink or swim. If he fails to produce 20 goals this year, he will be written off as a bust. There is lots of competition for roster spots at the moment, so he will have his hands full.
I am cautiously optimistic about Raymond this year. He did take a step back last season, but he showed flashes of brilliance, and has undeniable speed and a hard shot. A lot of prospects follow a bad 2nd year with a breakout 3rd year in the NHL (expect Sam Gagner to have a breakthrough season in Edmonton). If he does, he will have to prove that he belongs in the top 6-9 forwards currently on the Canucks roster and could find himself on a line with the likes of Demitra, Wellwood and Kesler. If he doesn’t, he could find himself shuffling through the lines, and spend time in the press box.