New York Islanders prospect Aatu Räty has not been in North America long, but in his small sample size, he has shown to be more than just a scorer.
But let’s start with his offense and go from there.
After playing just two AHL games for the Bridgeport Islanders before their regular season came to a close, he had zero points despite playing a solid brand of hockey.
But once the playoffs began, with Aatu Räty getting a few more practices in and learning the system, he’s come through offensively.
Through the sweep (2-0) of the Providence Bruins, Räty collected a point in each contest, with each point coming on the two overtime winners. On Monday, Räty won an offensive zone draw, which led to the Arnaud Durandeau game-winner moments later.
On Wednesday, Räty’s overtime goal sent Bridgeport to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
For the 19-year-old, he’s shown an ability and willingness to shoot from everywhere on the ice. In the two regular-season games he suited up for, he recorded just two shots on goal.
But in these first two playoff games, Räty has eight shots on goal, and although the stat is not tracked, I would say his shot attempts are somewhere north of 12.
Just like any scorer, it’s about hitting the net consistently and making adjustments. His head coach Brent Thompson spoke on that adjustment throughout Game 2 on Wednesday night.
“He had a number of chances earlier…shooting it high and wide, and he dialed it down. I thought he did a nice job.”
The best person to ask about a shooter is the goaltender who faces him at practices and in warmups. So I asked Bridgeport’s starting netminder Cory Schneider on why Räty’s shot is special.
“It’s kind of, you know, the fastball is coming, you still throw it by him. It’s kind of like that, and that’s just the way he plays the game,” Schneider said. “He plays at max effort, max speed all the time. And it’s fun to see. It’s good to have that energy here and have a guy, another guy, who can play at that level and play with that kind of tenacity, and you saw it on the goal there, it just didn’t seem like he was going to be denied on it.”
Prior to Räty’s first career North American goal, it was hard work and awareness in the defensive zone that allowed for the winning rush.
Although the 19-year-old will not get credit for the takeaway, Räty played a part in the Providence Bruins turnover in Bridgeport’s zone. He picked the right spots to pressure the puck carrier along the board but also peeled off to make sure he stayed with his man.
And when the turnover happened, Räty showed off his skating ability to get up the ice fast and make himself a passing option.
Earlier in the contest, Räty picked up a puck in the defensive zone and made a quick pass up the ice to his teammate, which created a strong scoring opportunity off the rush. Räty, at 6’2, 185 lbs, also has no problem playing a physical brand.
“Well, first and foremost, (he) works extremely hard, his hockey IQ,” Thompson said. “He’s picked up our structure, and he’s been over here just over a week, and he’s picked up our structure very well. He’s physical…the awareness of guys away from the puck. He has a good stick.”
Another area of his game, which paid dividends in overtime on Monday, was Räty’s ability in the face-off dot.
“His face-offs, if you really pay attention, he’s pretty strong on his face-offs,” Thompson said. “He’s ambidextrous. He can pull both ways.”
“So there’s a lot of really positive things you can build or that you can talk about, and he just continues to get better and better, and I’m excited to see him, you know, two years from now playing for the islanders.”
Räty’s ability to get so comfortable so quickly is in part to his skills as a hockey player and also his teammates.
“I mean the guys have been great. They have been helping me, helping me along,” Aatu Räty said. “Incredible linemates. Every time I’m going over something, they’ll make it clear. The game system is pretty similar to the ones I’ve been used to.”
A player at 19-year-old who already understands the importance of learning a system and playing it the right way will go a long way toward Aatu Räty getting on a fast track to the National Hockey League.
Especially with the New York Islanders defensive system, Räty showing strength in his defensive game is a rather encouraging sign.