The New York Islanders probably didn’t know what to expect come their first pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, which wasn’t until late into the second round. The Isles had to be thrilled that center Aatu Raty was still on the board.
With the trade deadline deal with the Devils that brought Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Island, the New York Islanders were looking for the best player available come their first-pick the 52nd overall. The Isles landed a first-round talent late in round number two.
After the 2020 World Championships Raty was being mentioned as one of the top talents for the 2021 NHL Draft. After that things went south.
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In the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2021 Raty’s play dropped off, to say the least, followed by his confidence. NHL insiders speculated Raty would go anywhere from late in the first round to the beginning of the second for this summer’s draft.
Raty’s fall was the Islander’s gain. Following being selected by the blue and orange in the 2021 Draft, Raty dominated in the 2021 World Junior Summer Showcase held in Michigan. The Isles are the early favorites to land the steal of the 2021 Draft.
Raty has to be considered the Islanders’ top forward prospect at this time. That is due to his potential and the current status of the other Islander forward prospects.
Given the depth of the Islanders varsity roster at the forward position, the Isles can allow the 18-year old Fin to develop and work on his game. Raty will not be rushed to Long Island.
Unfortunately, a big part of the reason why Raty is already the top forward prospect in the system is due to the fact the rest of the pipeline has work to do, to say the least.
Keep in mind, 2018 first-rounder Oliver Wahlstrom arrived on the Island pretty quickly. He will start this season as one of the Isles’ top nine forwards.
Have to feel good about the Isles’s top-end prospects on the blue line (Samuel Bolduc, Robin Salo, and Bode Wilde) as well as in between the pipes (Jakub Skarek & Tristan Lennox). However, the forward group needs to get better.
This is a big year for the Isles two other top forward prospects in Kiefer Bellows and Simon Holmstrom. Unless injuries occur this coming season it’s hard to see Bellows having a role on the Islanders this season. He could be moved in a trade before training camp as a sweetener to help free up some much-needed cap space.
Holmstrom has been a bit of a disappointment since being drafted in the first round (23rd overall) in the 2019 Draft. Keep in mind the Swede just turned 20 so don’t call him a bust yet. However, need to see Holmstrom take a big step forward in his development in the AHL this year.
Other forward kids in the pipeline to watch for in terms of their development this year are Ruslan Ishakov, Alexander Ljungkrantz, Cameron Berg, and Eetu Liukas.
The Islanders are deep at forward on the main roster but in two to three years time they will need some of a couple of their forward prospects to graduate to the main club.