New York Islanders
Islanders Draft Pick Aatu Raty Using Down Year as Learning Experience
Aatu Raty learned a lot from the down 2020-21 season he had with Karpat in Liiga.
He was once thought to be a high first-round pick in the NHL draft, but with just three goals and six points in 35 games last season in Finland he fell into the second round. The New York Islanders selected him with the 52nd overall pick and their first selection of this year’s draft.
“Tough season for me and the team that I play for in the Finish League,” Raty said during a media zoom call after he was selected. “It’s a super tough league playing pro hockey with grown men. The team that I play for is a big club. … I kind of struggled to get consistent minutes, but I think the season got better towards the end so I’m happy about it. I learned a lot. I just learned new stuff and I think I’ll be more ready for the next season.”
The 6-foot-1 centerman gives the Islanders some center depth in the prospect pool. Raty described his strengths as his playmaking ability, his hockey sense and stickhandling.
NHL Central Scouting had Aatu Raty as their third-ranked European skater, Eliteprospects ranked him 20th and TSN’s Craig Button ranked him 23rd.
“I’ve seen enough over the years to still believe in the player, but it’s fair to say I approach him with a large degree of caution,” Corey Pronman wrote in The Athletic. “He has skill in his game. He has quick-twitch hands and is great at handling the puck in small areas. He’s a fine, albeit awkward, skater who makes skilled plays on the move but needs to add more pace to his game. His playmaking and shot are both solid quality, but neither are spectacular.”
Even with the down season that Raty had last season, the Islanders didn’t think that Raty would still be available to them when it came time to make their pick.
“We were surprised that he was where he was at,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said during a conference call after the draft. “Just before we got our last pick (an Islanders PR staffer) put in front of me and said that Raty had just scored the first two goals for Finland playing in the Under-20s in Michigan. That made our scouts feel pretty good. We’re extremely pleased with that pick.”
Raty hopes that the struggles of the 2020-21 season will prepare him for eventually playing in the NHL one day. He still has another year left on his contract in Finland and he anticipates playing for Karpat next season.
When he spoke with reporters, he hadn’t discussed what their plans were for him just yet. Whenever he does make the jump over to North America, he plans to apply what he’s learned already playing pro hockey in Finland.
“For a lot of super talented young players who get drafted high and they’ve always been the guy on the team, it’s tough for them when they go to an NHL team and they’re not going to be the best player on that team,” Raty said. “I’m happy that I had to go through a season like that in the Finish (league). I think I’ll be more ready.”