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New York Islanders sign top 2021 pick Aatu Räty to entry-level contract

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The Finnish forward impressed after the draft among competition his own age.

2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, Semifinals: Canada vs Finland
Faust Arp what you Aatu Raty
Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

The New York Islanders have agreed to terms with their top 2021 NHL draft pick, forward Aatu Räty from Finland, on a three-year entry-level contract.

Räty, selected in the second round (52nd overall) last month, is a high-skill player who fell in the draft but impressed in the World Junior Summer Showcase immediately afterward. It’s hard to balance the general pre-draft scouting impression — especially during a pandemic-year draft — with where a player was viewed a couple years prior (some saw him as a potential top-five pick), and further with how he does in a short exhibition tournament afterward. But the signs thus far are generally good for expected return on a 52nd-overall pick.

Of course, it would be a shock if player and team didn’t reach an ELC, as usually a team’s top non-NCAA picks will reach an agreement in the first summer or year following their draft.

For the Islanders, it would be huge if Räty ended up living up to his hype from a year prior. The team has spent first-round draft picks on trades for NHL upgrades over the past few years, in trades that paid off, but that still leaves a gap in their pipeline of young — and as important, cost-controlled — talent.

Corey Pronman’s showcase roundup at the Athletic reflects what many saw of Räty in his post-draft comeback party:

The Aatu Raty revenge tour was in full swing at the showcase as he was a consistently impressive player and a leading scorer in the tournament. This event doesn’t mean he’s back to where he was a year ago and we will want to see how he does in Liiga versus men, but it was nice to see consistent displays of puck skills, playmaking and finishing from Raty. He was competing hard and showing his skill, which helped him stand out and keep the puck. His skating isn’t great and it will limit him at higher levels, but there was a lot of buzz among NHL scouts at the event for Raty, the most I’ve seen for him since two seasons ago.

To understand how he got there, Scott Wheeler’s profile, also at the Athletic, goes into Räty’s story. There are many factors outlined there, but one reflected the unimpressive season he had:

After a slow start in the big league — doing the proverbial “playing with men” — at Kärpät, the team president Tommi Virkkunen explained:

“...Then the COVID situation was really tough for the kids because the juniors usually play a few games for us and then they go back to junior and play a lot and them come back to the main team but we couldn’t do that this year, so that was affecting him quite a bit.”

Obviously, if Räty were a can’t-miss package of skill and skating, NHL teams wouldn’t have passed on him 51 times. But really skilled forwards with skating questions have made it before. It already looks like it was a worthwhile gamble, because teams that aren’t consistently getting first-round picks really need selections like this to work out.

An ELC guarantees nothing. But it’s saying there’s a chance...