Aatu Raty, the Islanders’ second-round pick from earlier this year, won’t be wearing the blue and orange sweater of the team that drafted him for much longer in 2021. The 18-year-old forward will return to Finland after the Islanders’ preseason to rejoin Kärpät — one of the top pro teams in the Finnish Liiga.
Kärpät’s standing as one of the powers in Finland was one of the reasons why Raty fell down draft boards, practically into the Islanders’ laps. He was once considered a bonafide first-rounder, but an inability to break into the team saw a decrease in minutes and resulted in a subsequent drop down NHL draft boards.
Over nearly a week at Islanders camp, though, head coach Barry Trotz is talking about the youngster as though his team came away with one of the steals of the draft; and high praise isn’t necessarily commonplace for the future Hall-of-Fame coach.
“There’s a lot to like about him,” Trotz said when I asked him about Raty on Tuesday. “He’s playing at a really difficult position. There’s some stuff we’re going to clean up, he’s 18 years old and he’s doing what he’s doing… he’s really responding well. That’s really encouraging.”
Trotz even likened Raty to one of the newest Islanders in veteran winger Zach Parise, who has carved out a 17-year career while captaining the New Jersey Devils before a nine-year stint with the Minnesota Wild.
“He reminds of Zach Parise… he’s not always pleasurable to the eye with his skating, but he gets there,” Trotz said. “And when he gets there, something happens. That’s when good players find a way to get things done. His skating is good enough but it’s probably not a strength at this level but it doesn’t hinder him.”
With nowhere to fit him currently on a team hoping to take that next step and make a Stanley Cup Final, the Islanders are still keeping a close watch on Raty before he heads back across the pond.
“We want him to get a good handle on the person and the player in that order. The person is good,” Trotz said. “We’re really impressed with the person and his game has lots of substance. He plays with a lot of joy in his game. He’s not scared of the moment. Which is really good for a young player.”
Raty logged 16 minutes in the Islanders’ preseason opener against the Rangers and got the nod from Trotz for Tuesday night’s meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’d like him to get this experience and have a good experience,” Trotz said. “And he’ll go back to his team at some point and hopefully he’ll carry it forward.”
That bodes well for Raty’s future with the Islanders in a year or two as battles for forward spots will open up due to older players getting phased out of the lineup — even if it means becoming Parise 2.0.