Canucks linemate Wild about Raymond's skills

STEVE MACFARLANE, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Speeding around defenders in the pre-season, Mason Raymond made quite an impression on new teammate Pavol Demitra.

Predicted by the veteran NHLer to become a big-time scorer, Vancouver Canucks sophomore Raymond is drawing comparisons to another man Demitra helped spring on many an unlucky goaltender.

"With his speed and his hands, he might be a little like Gabby (Marian Gaborik)," Demitra said.

"We'll see how it goes. He's a very skilled guy. He can skate and he can score goals. I like to play with guys like that. He can just take off, and he's full of confidence. I hope he can keep it up for a long season."

If Raymond can stay healthy, he'll have a leg up on Demitra's former triggerman with the Minnesota Wild.

He isn't expected to match Gaborik's 42-goal season from a year ago, but the Calgary product who grew up on a farm near Cochrane is expected to help support the Sedin twins in the scoring department for the Canucks in his second season.

They'll need the help after the Canucks managed just an average of 2.52 goals per game last season.

Raymond scored nine times and racked up 21 points playing 49 games in his rookie year. Teamed with Demitra and winger Taylor Pyatt for much of the pre-season, he scored three times. One came in a 6-1 win over the Flames after he turned on the jets and burned past defenceman Dion Phaneuf in the third period.

"Sure, it's pre-season, but a game's a game," said Raymond when asked if his recent performances have helped his confidence. "Whether it's pre-season or playoffs."

Hearing his name mentioned with the likes of Gaborik doesn't hurt, either.

"That's an honour for him to say that," Raymond said. "It seems to work good so far. I can find those holes and he throws it to me like he did last year with Marian. It's flattering, but it's early."

It's early, but in Raymond's own words: "So far, so good."

It's been suggested the left-winger says he can be a 20-goal scorer for the Canucks this season. He wouldn't state that yesterday in advance of their home-opener against the Flames at GM Place, but he said he has set objectives he keeps private.

"Absolutely, I have high expectations of myself, and I think Pavol does, too, along with Taylor," he said. "I expect myself to have a big year, for sure."

So does Demitra.

Asked for a prediction for young Raymond's goal production, there's no hesitation.

"I say 30, for sure," said the 33-year-old Slovak.

And how many does he expect to earn assists on?

"Thirty."


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