Everybody loves this Raymond!

STEVEN NOBLE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The day of the NHL draft, Mason Raymond was tubing.

The day was July 30, 2005. The NHL was rebounding from a year lost to a work stoppage, and the entry draft in Ottawa was the jump-off point.

Former Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis stepped up to the microphone and called out Raymond's name, 51st overall.

While most prospects were wringing their hands and fidgeting with their ties, Mason's father, Terry, recalls the family watching the first 10 picks together before heading out on Lake Windermere.

"They weren't going to have the draft, but they decided to pull it together at the last minute," he said.

So the Raymonds had planned a relaxing vacation.

Anyone who knows Mason will tell you the speedy winger hasn't stopped working since.

That's a big part of why the Cochrane-area native has spent most of his second NHL season on one of Vancouver's top two lines, bagging six goals and 12 points in 23 games.

In a draft class that includes stars like Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, Anze Kopitar and Devin Setoguchi, only 18 of the top 100 picks are taking a regular shift in the NHL. Raymond is one of them.

After splitting his first full year as a pro between the AHL's Manitoba Moose and the Canucks, Raymond's preseason play drew a lot of buzz. He showed instant chemistry with Vancouver's big off-season acquisition, Pavol Demitra, who likened the youngster to former Minnesota Wild linemate Marian Gaborik.

When Demitra went down with injury, head coach Alain Vigneault chose Raymond to ignite the top line, skating alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

That experiment is still a work in progress, but it's something Mason never would have dreamed of after going unclaimed at the WHL Bantam Draft in 2002-03.

After a strong rookie campaign with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Camrose Kodiaks, NHL scouts told the Raymonds Mason looked like a seventh- round pick at best.

He decided to wait a year and see if he could improve his stock. Terry told his son it was time to step it up.

"Dad's my idol to this day," Mason said. "He's always been there for me and always will be there for me. He's taught me so much about the game, and whenever he says something about hockey, I'm all ears."

All goals is more like it.

He led the AJHL in scoring with 41 goals and 81 points in 55 games in 2004-05, but Kodiaks' head coach Boris Rybalka says Raymond ultimately earned his spot in the draft class at the Doyle Cup.

As the Kodiaks star left the ice bloodied after a high stick, Rybalka turned to assistant coach Doug Fleck and said: "If he comes back out, he turns pro."

Not only did he return -- nearly 10 stitches lining his swollen face -- but he scored a goal.

"That was the day I knew he'd go pro," Rybalka said.

The 23-year-old realizes the window could close as quickly as it opened, and he's desperate to make the most of it.

"It's a short life in hockey," Raymond said. "You retire a young man in this business, so I just feel lucky to do what I do ,and I want to make the most of my opportunity."


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