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Räty Rose to Occassion, Realistic Role in 2022-23

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Aatu Räty

For 19-year-old forward Aatu Räty, his 2021-22 season was a wild one. The 57th overall pick in 2021 started his season with Karpat (Liiga), but after just one assist in six games, Räty was traded to Olli Jokinen’s Jukurit (Liiga), where he put up 40 points in 41 regular-season games before a two-assist effort in seven postseason games.

Once eliminated, Räty made his journey to North America and joined the Bridgeport Islanders for their final two regular-season games. Despite no points in those two games, Räty showed off his skating ability and willingness to get pucks on goal whenever he could.

And then came the playoffs.

In the two-game sweep of the Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, Räty rose to the occasion. I wrote about his first-round performance, which ended with his first AHL goal, the overtime winner in Game 2 as Bridgeport advanced to the second round.

Räty Going Right, Showcased Skillset in First Round

The second round did not bring much success to Bridgeport, who were eliminated in four games by the Atlantic Division leaders, the Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers/Seattle Kraken AHL affiliate). Räty recorded two assists in four games against Charlotte.

It was a small sample size for Räty in North America, but the future is undoubtedly bright.

“Well, he had a very good training camp. And I think that start of, you know, getting to know him and feeling good about where he was at as far as the young player,” Bridgeport Islanders general manager Chris Lamoriello said upon season’s end. “And I think his experience this year in Finland really Jukurit in what they did with that team, getting into the playoffs. He was another one who was in position of playing playoff hockey before the regular season ended.”

“And him coming over here. I think the enthusiasm that he brought. the fact that I think that his training experience was positive and the players and the coaches were familiar with him really made the transition very quick.”

Coming to a foreign place is never an easy transition, but the fact that Räty was at camp and knew some of the guys certainly helped him settle in quicker than most.

“I think that, you know, because he had seen and known some of the players from camp, the coaching staff, he was able to come in and play hockey…obviously had to get used to being over here again,” Chris Lamoriello said. “But I think he really fit in very well on and off the ice. He was very excited about being able to come in at the end of the year, you know, played a couple of regular-season games. The schedule worked out well where we did have some practice. So he was able to acclimate themselves to the systems, and again he very much appreciated what this experience brought.”

“And we appreciate it for him because, you know, again, you can’t read about these, you certainly can watch them, but when you go through them, it’s a whole other level of education, and I think he did a great job with it and we’re looking forward to seeing them on the ice in September.”

Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson summed up Räty’s stint in North America perfectly, calling it a snapshot. Although he only skated in eight total games,  the big standout was his effort level.

“Well, I think just the way he came in, in a quick little snapshot, probably the biggest thing is his effort level, his commitment to doing the right thing for the team,” Thompson said. “He bought into the role right away…he was a centerman, he was, you know, played a third-second line kind of role with us and power play and, you know, his effort level was outstanding.”

“I think just the ability to make that adjustment as quick as he did, the sky’s the limit for this kid.”

The New York Islanders do not have a thick prospect pool, which creates added excitement for Aatu Räty, with fans wanting him to get a shot with the big club sooner than later.

But there is no rush. The last thing the New York Islanders want to do is rush his development and hurt him in the process.

“As far as coming from European hockey, the bigger the ice, more time, to North America where time is closed off a lot quicker, he has to learn to be able to get shots off quicker to you know, to find open ice to get the shot off… I thought he did a really nice job of that,” Thompson said.

The New York Islanders currently have their four centermen locked and loaded for 2022-23: Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau & Casey Cizikas.

But aside from the four starting centerman, Aatu Räty might be the call-up if anyone goes down. 23-year-old center Otto Koivula (120th pick, 2016) just finished his fourth season in Bridgeport and has 20 games of NHL experience.

Former Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, who was relieved of his duties a few weeks ago, stated before season’s end that Koivula looks better and better each time he plays. For Räty’s development sake, it’s not the end of the world if he is not the first one called up in 2022-23.

With Bridgeport, Aatu Räty should be playing top-six minutes, which will allow him to flourish and continue to build on his skillsets and become a more well-rounded player in his age 20 season.

If we see him with the New York Islanders to start the regular season, it will likely mean someone in the starting lineup is injured.

On a more realistic note, Bridgeport seems the likely place for Räty to be for at least one full season before he gets his chance at regular minutes in the National Hockey League, potentially in 2023-24.

Again, there is zero rush for the potential steal of the 2021 NHL Draft.

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