The New York Islanders may have pulled off the steal of the Draft with Aatu Raty pick

The New York Islanders. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
The New York Islanders. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Award potential steal of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to the New York Islanders.

The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is now in the books, but there is every chance that the New York Islanders have already got the steal of the draft after taking Aatu Raty with the No. 52 overall pick.

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One of the biggest storylines heading into this year’s Draft was where Raty would fall, with the center perhaps the most mystifying prospect we have come across in recent years given his dramatic and shocking fall from grace.

Seen as the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year’s Draft just over a year ago, and some felt as though it wasn’t close, Raty looked to be the latest phenom set to grace the NHL with his considerable talents.

Then the 2020-21 season happened.

Playing in his native Finland with Karpat, Raty recorded just six points (3 G, 3 A) in 35 games, averaging just 11:38 of total ice time.

In short, Raty’s offense just fell off a steep, sharp cliff and it appeared as though all of his offensive instincts and brilliance just vanished in the blink of an eye, seeping out of his body without a moment’s notice.

New York Islanders may have pulled off the steal of the Draft by selecting Aatu Raty

Sure, he was playing against men and a rough season at the age of 18-years-old can be expected, but he also struggled for Karpat’s U20 team after putting up just three goals and four assists for seven points in eight games.

All in all, it was the worst possible season at the worst possible time for the left-shot, and he spiralled down Draft boards soon after the season finished as a direct result, with some wondering if he had what it takes to succeed in the NHL.

Still, the talent is clearly there and the fact that Raty fell as far as he did in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft was shocking, especially given that he wasn’t selected until the end of the Second Round with the 52nd overall pick.

That pick was obtained by the Isles just days earlier after trading defenseman Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings, and those series of transactions by General Manager Lou Lamoriello could be looked upon as a stroke of genius in a few years.

After all, there is no doubting that Raty boasts tremendous upside and one bad season doesn’t mean that he still can’t morph into the elite top-six NHL forward that many experts had predicted just a year or so ago.

Primarily a center, the 18-year-old can also play on the wing and he possesses silky hands, elite creativity, great hands, a powerful and accurate shot that could be a dangerous weapon in the NHL, and he puts his 6-foot-1, 181 pounds frame to good use by setting up shot in-front of the net.

Talent doesn’t just disappear overnight and there’s no way that Raty just woke up one day and forgot how to play, he just had a bad season and that can be understood when you consider the circumstances the 2020-21 season was played under with the COVID-19 Pandemic impacting everyone.

And, shortly after he was drafted by the Isles, Raty went on to record a hat-trick for Finland against Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase, so there is a very, very good player still in that body.

Also, there was a general consensus in the days leading up to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft that if he could land with the right team and be placed in the right system under the right people, then Raty would bounce back and truly flourish.

And there is no doubt that the Islanders are the perfect team for Raty.

Lamoriello holds people to account within his organization, he’s created a respected culture on Long Island and there is a solid structure in place under Head Coach Barry Trotz that should give Raty all the tools he needs to unlock his potential.

He won’t be asked to do too much all at once and both Lamoriello and Trotz will give Raty the time and space he needs to hone his craft, regain his confidence and develop into the player that the hockey world thought he could be not that long ago.

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And, if he can do exactly that, then there is no doubt that we will be looking back in a few years on the New York Islanders’ selection of Aatu Raty at No. 52 overall as the absolute steal of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

And it won’t even be close.