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Raymond using his speed to become a star

by Adam Schwartz

"Playing with Raymond has been exciting. He's been a real exciting young man and he's probably one of the best skaters I've ever played with."
-- Mats Sundin

How fast is Mason Raymond? Just ask Mats Sundin, who was playing alongside Raymond upon his return to the NHL in January.

While most players would be more honored to be playing with Sundin, the 37-year-old Swede feels it's a privilege to skate with Raymond.

"Playing with Raymond has been exciting," Sundin said. "He's been a real exciting young man and he's probably one of the best skaters I've ever played with. He's a really good player. He brings a lot of things. He brings the excitement of a young player, but he has all of the tools and skills to be a great player in this League, so I'm very fortunate to get a chance to play with him."

Raymond, who will play Saturday for the Sophomore Team in the YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, is pleased to get the opportunity to take part in the festivities in Montreal.  

"It was an honor to be named to the YoungStars Game and I'm looking forward to it," Raymond said. "I want to spend some time there representing the Canucks alongside (goalie) Roberto (Luongo). It's going to be an experience for me because I've never been a part of anything like that. I'm excited to see what's going to happen and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

While most who talk about the Canucks' offensive threats mention Sundin or the Sedin twins before Raymond, but he is a valuable asset. Raymond has one of the better shots on the team, which was evidenced when he was used at the point on the power play earlier in the season.

Last season as a rookie, Raymond averaged just 12:31 of ice time, but this season Raymond has taken a bigger role for Vancouver and is averaging 15:13 of ice time, including 2:44 of power-play time.

Raymond's skating prowess came to him naturally while playing outside growing up in rural Alberta.

"I can't say that I practiced being quick when I was younger," Raymond said. "I grew up on a pond on a farm so I would skate outside all the time. I think my speed is something that just came to me. I don't know why or how, but I'm blessed with it and I'm thankful for it."

Raymond concedes that his speed is probably his most valuable skill, but he has other strengths, as well.

"I think my speed is definitely one of my strongest assets," Raymond said. "Being able to skate well is important because things are changing and speed seems to kill. I also have the ability to see the ice well and put the pucks toward the net. I haven't been able to produce as much as late, but I would like to be a second-line guy. I think I'm offensive, but at the same time you want to be a good, two-way, honest player."

Even though Raymond got off to a hot start with 5 goals and 10 points during a 10-game stretch from the middle of October until early November, he has gone cold lately and has no points in his last nine games.

Raymond is aware of his struggles and admits this has been an up-and-down season -- not just for him, but for the Canucks, as well. Vancouver, which was in first place in the Northwest Division earlier this season, barely is hanging onto the last playoff spot in the Western Conference -- they entered the All-Star break eighth in the West with 51 points. 

"This year has been another roller-coaster, I think," Raymond said. "I haven't been where I've wanted to be in the last little while, but I started out the year very well. You come in during your second year and you feel a little more confident and a little better as a player. You are learning every day and it's a long road and it's a journey you have to take a day at a time and one step at a time."

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