Remember Aatu Raty, the kid who dropped all the way to the Islanders in the second round of last year’s draft and made a few prospect watchers of other NHL teams sad for a few minutes? Sure you do.
After a short stint at Islanders camp, he was assigned back to Karpat in Finland’s Liiga but struggled. He was then traded to Jukurit and blossomed under coach Olli Jokinen, finishing second on the team with 40 points in 41 games (13g, 27a) and looking more like the kid the Islanders stole at the draft.
Jukurit’s season came to an end after six playoff games, so today, the Islanders officially assigned Raty to Bridgeport of the AHL, hoping to help the Baby Isles finish a push for their own playoff spot. He even took a twirl on the local ice, leaving Barry Trotz impressed.
From the team’s release:
“Since he got traded, he stepped into a real prime spot and had a terrific year,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s an important prospect for us.”
“I saw him yesterday, he was on the ice for a bit,” Trotz continued. “He looks stronger, he looks bigger… he looks like the player everybody expected when he was drafted.”
In a longer story at The Athletic, Kevin Kurz got some quotes from Jokinen about what he saw in Raty this season. At still just 19, the kid still has a lot of growing to do but strides have been made already:
It’s unclear whether the Islanders view Raty as breaking in as a center at the NHL level, or if he’s better suited at wing. His usage in Bridgeport this weekend could offer a hint in that regard. Still, Jokinen focused on faceoffs with Raty, and he “improved big time” in the circle.
There was more.
“A big thing for me was teaching him how to play center in North America, so he improved all those areas that usually young players are lacking: battle level, (playing) in straight lines, net drives (he played net front on our power play), mental toughness and how to stay in the moment, skating/quick turns, and mental preparation,” Jokinen continued. “Great kid who wants to learn every day.”
With the big Islanders out of playoff contention, Bridgeport’s push for a playoff berth is a late and unexpected bit of intrigue this season. Raty - essentially the team’s No. 1 prospect and maybe their most enticing young forward since Mathew Barzal - joining the squad is an extra layer of spice that makes it a little more exciting.
I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of pressure on Raty right now but he’s certainly gonna have a few extra sets of eyes watching him, hoping he can be a big part of the Islanders’ next season (and erasing the memory of this cursed and thankfully almost finished one).
Since finding video of overseas prospects is practically impossible, here’s an ad for Rat in the Kitchen, a new cooking competition show coming to TBS this spring. Let’s hope Aatu Raty is equally if not more entertaining.