With the 52nd pick of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders have selected Aatu Räty from Kärpät in the Finnish Elite League.
About Aatu Räty
Once viewed as the potential first-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, few prospects have slipped further down draft boards in the past year than Räty. That fact points to several factors: the strangeness of this draft season, the unpredictability of this particular draft class, and, of course, Räty’s disappointing performance with Kärpät this season. Though he played much of the season at the highest level among men, he managed just six points in 35 games and was left off the Finnish roster at the U20 World Junior Championship entirely.
Even so, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound center remains the No. 3 European skater according to NHL Central Scouting and has the potential to be one of the steals of the draft if he can shake off his slump and return to his previous form. At his best, he is one of the highest-skilled playmakers in this draft. Ultimately, he represents one of the highest-risk, highest-reward picks in the entire draft.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“Raty spent the 2019-20 season splitting time between Karpat’s pro-level team and Karpat’s junior-level team. He put up 21 points in 30 games for Karpat U20 and four points in 12 games in the top league. Being a 17-year-old at the time, this was enough for Finland to give him a look on the fourth-place finishing World Junior team, where he put up three points in seven games. Certainly impressive for the youngest player not only on the team but at the tournament.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
“Having said that, this year has raised some concerns regarding Raty’s draft stock. He hasn’t taken much of a step forward in his development, currently sitting at five points in 26 games for Karpat. He’s been given a look on the U20 team again and seems to have taken a step forward in that regard with seven points in eight games.
“But still, for a once-projected first overall pick and a now-projected top-15 pick, his lack of offensive development in his draft year is a little bit concerning. And what’s even more confusing is the fact that he was left off of the Finnish 2021 World Junior team. Whether Raty just had a terrible selection camp or if there’s a deeper-rooted issue between him and the coaching staff is unknown. Nonetheless, it’s incredibly rare to see a prospect not invited back after making the team the previous year, let alone one of Raty’s calibre.
“Even with the struggles in his draft year, Raty’s skill set is not one to overlook. His greatest asset is his skating ability, with the ability to kickstart a play as well as finish it not far behind.
“He’s an elite puck handler and also possesses a solid 200-foot game, which isn’t always easy to come by when you’re talking about an offensive centre at his age. He needs to work on his discipline as well as his consistency, but he has all the tools to make him a worthwhile first-round selection for whoever drafts him.”
How This Affects the Islanders’ Plans
This is a perfect fit for the Islanders. Having traded their first-round pick for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, the 52nd pick is their highest selection in this draft. With it, they take a high risk, high reward player. The Islanders have some interesting prospects as it is and don’t need immediate help. On the off chance that Räty recovers his potential first-overall form, general manager Lou Lamoriello will look like a genius for making this pick here. And a late second-round pick is not a bad price to pay for that possibility.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.