2. Aatu Räty Makes the Islanders Roster and Is a Calder Trophy Candidate
What exactly defines bold? In this instance, defying what GM Lou Lamoriello just publicly said about his prospects taking time in the AHL to develop, and saying he wins an individual award this upcoming season in the big leagues should qualify as more than just bold.
Aatu Räty at one point long before the day he got drafted by the Isles was considered to be the best prospect in his draft class. He ended up falling from a top-scouted prospect all the way to round two, pick number 54. This was mostly due to a hard time developing to the professional level while in Europe, granted at such a young age. In his draft season with Liiga's Oulun Kärpät, he only mustered six points in 35 games in a season he was expected to make a little more of an impact. This past season, he played with Mikkelin Jukurit and had much more promising results, scoring 40 points in 41 games. Much more like what a projected top pick could do.
Räty is only 19 years old right now, which in itself will make it hard for him to jump into a lineup full of veterans that have earned their place on the roster. But the kid has only proven everybody wrong and has gotten noticeably better ever since getting drafted, quite literally by scoring four goals in the World Junior Summer Showcase mere hours after the selection. His World Junior prowess did not stop there. In the 2022 World Juniors that was rescheduled to the summer due to COVID issues in the winter, he had a very impressive 10 points in seven games while leading the Finns to the gold medal game, eventually losing in 3-on-3 overtime while earning silver.
Sometimes there needs to be an adjustment period for European players to adjust to the North American game, but some players adapt quicker than others. A young NHL star with a comparable style to Räty that comes to mind is Tim Stützle, who adjusted to the smaller rink relatively quickly. I am not saying he will turn into that caliber of a player right away, but if he were to shock the world, let alone the Islanders staff, he could very well be a dark horse candidate to win the Calder Memorial Trophy. A young player like him who has played against men in Europe and has shown great agility, puck control, passing, and ability to score in many areas around the net could certainly make some noise if he makes the roster this season, and gets put next to players that would complement his game, such as Brock Nelson or Mat Barzal.