Cochrane's Raymond chases NHL dream

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

The number of times Mason Raymond was in the Saddledome is too high to count.

The number of times he'd skated on the NHL arena's ice? Well, there was one time before last night's pre-season clash between Raymond's Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames.

"Way, way back when I was in Tykes," said the 22-year-old forward from Cochrane.

"It was a Christmas tournament or something like that. That would be about 15 years ago now."

The memory won't compare to doing it while donning a NHL sweater, with at least 15 friends and family on hand to lend their support.

"As a kid, my dad had season tickets, my family, so it's neat to finally be here playing in a rink you watched games in as a kid," Raymond said.

"I don't know if it was the dream playing for Calgary, but it was my favourite team as a kid growing up. It was closest to home so it was always the team that I liked. I admired all the players in the NHL, so any team you can play for is an honour."

Especially when you're trying to earn a big-league job.

A few weeks ago, Raymond was the toast of the town.

The left winger chosen in the second round, 51st overall, in 2005 was lighting up the Canucks' rookie camp, earning praise at every turn.

The coaching staff was excited and even Scott Arneil, head coach of the AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose, called him a "sure bet."

Then came main camp. When the vets arrived, the buzz quieted and the 6-ft., 185-lb. Raymond had to battle with the elevation in talent around him.

Heading into last night's clash with the Flames, Raymond -- who starred for two seasons with the AJHL's Camrose Kodiaks and then two years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth -- had one goal in four pre-season clashes.

"We've seen a kid that's got great speed and skill," said coach Alain Vigneault. "He seems to have a nice face as far as coming to the rink and wanting to get better. We think he's got a lot of potential."


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