Aatu Räty has spent the majority of his time in North America playing hockey and hopping from hotel to hotel, nearly 4,000 miles away from his hometown of Oulunsalo, Finland. So the 19-year-old hasn’t really been able to experience much of life in the United States.
“It’s not too bad,” he told amNewYork on Thursday. “I like the weather here. It’s way, way nicer than where I come from.”
September on Long Island has that effect on people — not too stifling but still nice enough to enjoy the outdoors.
That’s not what Räty is here for, however.
The New York Islanders top prospect enters rookie camp, which began on Thursday, as one of the more intriguing young talents within the organization’s pipeline.
A second-round pick last year, he recorded 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games for Jukurit of Finland’s professional league. After participating in six playoff games for the Islanders’ minor-league affiliate in Bridgeport, Räty earned a place with Finland’s national junior team for the world championships last month in which he recorded three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 10 games while earning a silver medal.
“It was a great experience. I thought I played some decent hockey there too,” Räty said. “It’s good to get some games before the season, so no excuses now. Definitely should be in great game shape and ready for camp.”
For an Islanders team that has been devoid of legitimate and consistent scoring, Räty’s development will be something closely monitored by management in the coming weeks. At 6-for-2 190 pounds, the forward possesses a lethal shot to his ledger but is versatile enough to play different styles — whether that means sniping from the circles or setting up shop in front of the net.
At this rate, it’s only a question of when — not if — he’ll be donning an NHL uniform with the Islanders, though he’s not prescribing a timeframe for himself.
“I think I’m a good player and could help any team. It’s a matter of time,” he said. “If I’m not ready yet, I’ll be ready either in one month or two or three years. It doesn’t matter. I’ll be ready.
“I’m just trying to be the best version of myself, try to play as well as I can, and I’m sure they’ll find the perfect spot for me when the season starts, either in Bridgeport or with the Islanders.”
Quite a showing of maturity for Räty not to expect or put too much focus on hypotheticals. After all, he’s still just a kid trying to figure it out in the States.
“Hopefully, I can get my driver’s license soon,” he joked. “Then I can get a car so I can see some places.”