Drafted 52nd overall in 2021 by the New York Islanders, Aatu Räty dropped far from the number one overall some thought he might be just a year prior. So no one knew what to expect from Räty after getting drafted by the Isles.
We all saw the dominant display at the 2021 WJC Summer Showcase where he put up 14 points in six games against the US and Sweden. And we saw him do well at the Isles training camp before the season began.
But the true test for Räty would be the regular season. It's one thing to do well in a short sample like the WJCSS or training camp, but could he do it over a full 60-game LIIGA season? Because if he could he'd prove the doubters wrong.
New York Islanders: Aatu Räty proves doubters with 2021-22 season
Now that the LIIGA regular season is over we can answer that question with a resounding "yes".
We all know how it started with a single point in six games with Kärpät. And then came the loan to Jukurit. A loan that allowed Räty to absolutely take off. In 41 games with Jukurit, Räty scored 13 goals and 40 points.
With that loan, Räty showed that he wasn't a fringe player but a top-line center. Playing in all three situations from 5on5, to the power play, to the PK. He was one of Jukurit's top players this season alongside wingers Petrus Palmiu, Simon Stransky, and goalie Oskari Salminen.
Räty ended the regular season in the best possible way, on a six-game point streak, picking up eight points in that stretch. Not only helping Jukurit get into the playoffs but into second place and with a bye into the semifinal with home-ice advantage.
Remember, Räty fell far in the draft. We knew he wouldn't go first overall like he was projected to a year prior, but a first-round pick was possible. He fell out of the first round and into the second half of the second round.
He's proven that last year was some sort of adoration. That it wasn't the true Aatu Räty. He's still not a first overall candidate, but a number of teams will regret passing on him now. Guaranteed.