Islanders: The Curious Case of Aatu Räty

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
New York Islanders v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

It’s not every day that a 52nd overall pick becomes an organization’s top prospect right after they were drafted, but that’s exactly the story of Aatu Räty and the New York Islanders. The day after Räty was drafted in the second round, his “revenge tour” began and has not stopped since.

In the words of Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz, “This guy is just a good hockey player.”

After centering the likes of Anthony Beauvillier and Kyle Palmieri during the preseason, Räty ultimately went back to Finland to play out the final season of his contract with the Oulun Kärpät in Liiga. 

New York Islanders: Aatu Räty’s 2021-22 Season

There, he was healthy scratched more often than not, and in the games he did get to play in, was forced into a bottom-six role with limited ice time which severely impacted his offensive performance and, it seems, even his overall confidence. 

However, that all changed when he was loaned to Mikkelin Jukurit. His offensive resurgence was instant.

Jukurit Head Coach Olli Jokinen inserted him straight into the second line, and it paid off. Off ice, the coach (and ex-Islander) had nothing for Räty but praise, “He is a talented young player with a fantastic work ethic who is very eager to learn. Nice to coach a player like that.”

In 11 games since his loan, Räty has put up 13 points — six goals and seven assists — already eclipsing his draft year numbers of three goals and three assists in 35 games with Kärpät. 

Along the way, Räty and the chip on his shoulder have drawn the attention and support of much of the Islanders fanbase, and it is deserved. After he was caught on video gifting the stick he used in his first NHL preseason game to a young fan, we knew he was an Islander off ice. On ice, he represents the future, already gaining notice from fans of teams who passed on him and climbing prospect rankings. 

Having already made the Finnish World Junior Championships team, we will hopefully be able to watch Räty take on peers his own age while representing his country on international ice. If this year’s trend of playing against his age group in such tournaments continues, we might just witness him put on a show. 

Unfortunately, just a few hours ago Jukurit revealed that the entire team is in quarantine for at least six days reliant on negative tests to end it after COVID cases popped up, and following local health guidelines. 

With the Finnish World Juniors team slated to fly out this Wednesday, and Räty’s health status up in the air, we have to hope that he will still be able to make the tournament which begins on the 26th and requires a two-day quarantine period for players flying in despite not having a bubble-like last year. 

Regardless, his transformation in these past few months shows a nearly night and day transformation from the Aatu Räty of the 2020-21 season.

Aatu Räty set out to prove people wrong and that’s something that every Islanders fan understands.