A few days into the NY Islanders rookie camp, the consensus from coaches and Isles staff is that there's a bit of a buzz on the ice as Long Island's prospects battle it out looking to make an impression on the organization that drafted them. There's even the thought that despite traditionally earning a low rank, the Isles prospect pool is much improved from one year ago. However, after speaking with the media on Monday morning, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello explained he believes the Isles top prospects, Aatu Räty and William Dufour, aren't quite ready for the NHL.
"If I had a crystal ball, I'd say they're not ready at this point."- Lou Lamoriello on Räty and Dufour
It comes as no surprise to see the Islanders GM say that about two really young players as he is known to depend on players a few years older than Räty (19) and Dufour (20). One of Lamoriello's most noted statements is "if you have time, you use it," and with both under 21 years old, the two Isles prospects have plenty to spare. Islanders training camp opens on Wednesday and both are expected to be in attendance, so we'll see what they can prove against NHLers, but it's important to remember this will still be both of their first (full) seasons playing professional hockey in North America and, in fact, it will likely benefit them both to develop their games in the AHL.
"I'm of the belief that I'd rather have them come up too late when it comes to the young players."- Lou Lamoriello continued
Räty and Dufour took different paths to the NHL. Both drafted by the Islanders, Räty returned to Finland last year and competed in Liiga in a league where he faced NHL-sized men. And, as you likely already know, Räty fared quite well scoring 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games with Mikkelin Jukurit. Dufour had a historic season, too, scoring 116 points in 66 games, second overall in the QMJHL, first in goals with 56. However, Dufour's competition came against smaller opponents, though he did prove himself to be able to handle best-on-best competition in the Memorial Cup and 2022 World Junior Championships.
It's been long stated the NHL isn't a developmental league, whereas the AHL is. And that's exactly what Lamoriello plans on Räty and Dufour doing in Bridgeport. Unless anything drastically changes this week when training camp starts, expect the Isles top two prospects to work on their games with the Jr. Islanders before they make their NHL debuts.