For the Boston Bruins, the 2021 NHL Draft will be a bit of a lottery. With the 20th overall pick and no second-rounder after they traded it for Taylor Hall at the deadline, they find themselves in that awkward position where the top picks who can make an impact in the short term will likely be off the board. This means that they can either play it safe, take a big swing on a prospect that slipped due to uncertainty or take a reach on a player who would be available in Round 2.
As the THW 2021 Mock Draft proceeded, a few options presented themselves on all sides of this equation with the 20th overall pick. There were a number of safe prospects on the board who weren’t particularly exciting but would have made fine additions to the Bruins’ pool. Despite this, one name on the board stood out as a high-risk, high reward option that was just too good to pass on. So, with their selection I had Boston take Finnish forward Aatu Raty.
Not that long ago, the thought of Boston adding Raty to their prospect pool would have seemed impossible. After all, he was considered one of the top prospects for the 2021 Draft, with many outlets expecting him to be the first-overall pick as recently as 2019.
After a rough 2020-21 season, where he only posted six points in 35 games with Karpat of Liiga, questions started to be raised about Raty’s compete level and how high his offensive ceiling could be. It’s not that he looked necessarily bad, it’s just that his play leveled out, with his growth grinding to a halt seemingly overnight. This eventually led to him being left off the Finnish 2021 WJC-18 team, despite being one of the top prospects in the county.
What Raty Could Bring to Boston
Now, this may sound like the Bruins would be taking a big risk with this pick, which is absolutely true. At their position in the draft, however, there wasn’t a player available who could offer more to the franchise than Raty. Players with his potential are rare to come across outside of the Top-10 and he has the toolkit to develop into a true first-line centerman who can take on 20-plus minutes of ice time each night while chipping in on the powerplay.
When you look at the production he was putting together in the U20 SM-liiga as a 16-year-old, you see a player with an elite ceiling who was posted 17 goals and 31 points in 41 games, despite his age. That sort of talent doesn’t just disappear, and it’s something that the Bruins can build upon to help him reach his full potential.
What this means for Boston is that Raty could be a bit of a project. He likely won’t be a player that you draft and immediately plug into the top-line. He will need time to develop his game, especially as he attempts to regain his confidence and master his full toolkit.
Bruins Can Develop Raty’s Toolkit
If there’s any team that can develop this kind of player, it’s the Bruins. They have a strong organizational culture and systems in place that can get the most out of their prospects. We’ve seen this story before, as they took David Pastrnak late in the 2014 Draft and quickly moved him into the NHL as he showcased top-end talent.
Some teams may hesitate when a young player shows starter potential, but the Bruins seem to be willing to give their prospect the room to take on the ice-time that they earn.
Read Also: THW 2021 Mock NHL Draft Round 1
For Raty, this could be just what he needs to jumpstart his career. He doesn’t have to be the man in Boston right now. He could have a few years to learn the game behind players like Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, and as he starts to master the game, he would be given a bigger role with the team.
In a few seasons, he may even be ready to replace Bergeron on the top-line, which feels like an impossible task but is something he is fully capable of. And if he can put it all together, he could become the steal of the draft.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.