VANCOUVER, B.C. – Two years of NHL experience have flattened the learning curve for Mason Raymond and the speedy winger wants to make the most of it.
He has been rewarded for his play with a promotion to the Vancouver Canucks’ second line and scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday’s 7-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Raymond was one of the Canucks’ better forwards during Vancouver’s three-game losing streak to open the 2009-10 campaign, and has found a better comfort level.
“That comes with experience,” Raymond said in an interview after Friday’s practice. “I feel that’s something I’ve learned in my first two years, that there are some tricks of the trade to improve yourself.
“You just feel better. I kind of know what’s going on now. The systems come more second nature. You learn a lot more about the game. It’s amazing how much you learn in one year.”
With rookie Sergei Shirokov sent to the minors, Raymond joined Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson on the second unit and all of them scored against the Habs.
“With Samuelsson on that line, who likes to shoot the puck, and me and Mace’s speed, we’re finding each other out there and we have some good chemistry,” Kesler said.
“When we’re flying up the ice together, two on one, it’s really hard to stop us.”
Raymond’s goal came on a play coach Alain Vigneault would like to see more often from the lanky six-foot, 185-pound winger. He swooped to the net, got around defender Maxim Lapierre while shielding the puck, then beat goalie Carey Price with a backhand.
“We feel Mason has got a tremendous amount of skill, great speed,” Vigneault said. “If ever he finds a way to maybe go to those tough areas a little bit more, he would obviously get more scoring chances and probably become a better offensive player.
“I do think we’re seeing parts of that coming along here. His work ethic has been very good and he has been generating more chances since the beginning of the season and we’re going to need him to keep doing that.”
Raymond appeared lost during some games last season. He would blast down the wing, then shoot from a bad angle or miss a chance to drive to the goal crease.
“It’s easier said than done,” said Raymond, a 24-year-old farm boy from Cochrane, Alta. “You’ve got to go to the net to score goals and those are hard areas to go to.”
The Canucks selected Raymond 51st overall in the 2005 draft after he played two seasons with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
He made the WCHA’s all-rookie team with 28 points in 40 games. In his sophomore season, Raymond had 14 goals and 46 points in 39 games to finish second to Jonathan Toews, now a Chicago Blackhawks star, in the WCHA scoring race.
Raymond played 49 games with the Canucks in 2007-08 when he split time between Vancouver and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, scoring nine goals and 12 assists with the big club.
Last season he didn’t see the minors, and got off to a strong start with five goals and 10 points in his first 13 games. His production tailed off dramatically after that, and he finished with just six goals in his final 59 games.
“Last year was last year,” Raymond said. “There were a lot of peaks and valleys but for myself, I know the hockey I can play and it’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it.
“I’m looking forward to focusing every day and being good every night.”
His role with the Canucks is growing as Vigneault used him as a penalty killer toward the end of last season and in the playoffs where Raymond scored twice in 10 games.
Raymond relishes the extra responsibility.
“Any time I get on the ice, I’m looking for more ice time,” he said. “You get out there and feel better about yourself and play harder. It’s a role I’m enjoying now.”