Aatu Raty and William Dufour are two of the New York Islanders’ top prospects that are playing in the 2022 World Juniors. The two have not only been playing great in the tournament but have proven they can potentially make an impact on the Islanders’ roster shortly, specifically, sooner than many fans expected.
The question is if both Raty and Dufour can join the Islanders roster, can they help out the offense as soon as next season, and in what role can they do so? The two skaters can add a young presence to an otherwise older, veteran forward unit but only when they are ready for the NHL.
Both prospects will get looks in training camp as part of the surplus of players that join the roster ahead of the season, which included Raty in 2021. However, the expectation is for both Raty and Dufour to start the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bridgeport Islanders. While the Islanders’ prospect pool is one of the worst in the NHL, with two of their top scorers in the AHL, the upcoming season will be a crucial one to watch for the team, particularly to see if either skater is ahead of schedule and ready for the next level.
Raty is the more NHL-ready prospect and more complete player overall, making him a possible midseason addition to the team. For the 19-year-old Finnish center, he should join the team earlier in the season, assuming he is ready, as he adapts to the speed and skill of the pro game and acclimates himself sooner. In addition, the earlier Raty joins the roster, the easier it will be for first-year head coach Lane Lambert to find a role for him in the offense and ideally provide the Islanders with a young star by the end of the season.
Dufour, on the other hand, might take more time to reach the NHL, possibly playing a year in the AHL before joining the Islanders. Unlike Raty, who spent time with the Bridgeport roster, Dufour spent last season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), a league that is significantly a step below the AHL. This makes him likely a year away from joining the Islanders, but there is a slight chance, especially if his scoring production keeps up, that he can get called up to the professional team.
Raty & Dufour’s Positions
As a center, finding a spot for Raty on the roster will be difficult, to say the least. The Islanders already have four reliable centers on the team, and if they sign Nazem Kadri, who remains an unrestricted free agent, the team will have five centers for four forward lines. Yes, Raty is a talented center, but even if he is ready by midseason, bumping one of the other skaters to the wing would mess with the team’s chemistry and run the risk of him struggling in the role of leading a line in the process.
Raty can move to the wing and will likely do so if the Islanders want his skill in their offense. With that change, unfortunately, will come growing pains and limitations on his overall production. As a result, it will be interesting to see where the AHL team chooses to play him to start next season. He’ll impact the team most playing center, but a handful of games on the wing will prepare him for when he gets called up to the Islanders roster.
While Raty might need to adjust or change positions, Dufour is a right wing, which is an advantage for both himself and the team. The Islanders lack depth on the right side with only three natural right wingers on the team, while oftentimes, a left-wing skater has to play out of position, whether it’s Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, or Zach Parise.
If the 20-year-old can join the roster, he can reasonably play on the Jean-Gabriel Pageau-led line to start his NHL career and fill that void on the right side of the forward unit. The Pageau line, in particular, is the best one for Dufour, who would slowly integrate into the roster as a middle-six forward while also benefiting from the center’s ability to handle the puck and open up ice in the offensive zone.
What They Add to the Islanders
Raty is an elite talent and a well-rounded forward that thrives in a lot of the small ways that make him a star in the making. He’s a great skater and instinctive in the offensive zone, finding the puck and the back of the net with a good shot. Additionally, he’s also a strong two-way player that can create turnovers and start up the rush. When Raty eventually joins the Islanders, his skills can put the forward unit and roster altogether over the top.
While not as skilled as Raty, Dufour has a reputation as a scorer, notably helping the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs win the Memorial Cup last season. The scoring reputation can largely be credited to a great shot that can kickstart his NHL career. Dufour’s shooting ability makes him a valuable forward on the wing as he’ll find the back of the net if he receives open ice near the net and plays alongside a skater that can draw opponents.
The Islanders have one of the older rosters in the NHL, with multiple key players over the age of 30. A young presence, especially in the forward unit, would both lift the roster and extend the team’s championship contending window. As a result, both Raty and Dufour will be intriguing players to watch next season, but fans will have to be patient to see their true impact on the team.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.