NY Islanders Aatu Räty & Samuel Bolduc providing silver lining amidst latest struggles

Jan 23, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders defenseman Samuel Bolduc skates during the
Jan 23, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders defenseman Samuel Bolduc skates during the / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt, it's dark times for the NY Islanders right now. They've lost 10 of their last 11 games and are free falling in the standings. They're not mathamatically out of the equation just yet, but it's heading in that direction and it's heading there fast. There is a silver lining, though. Whether it's been by need or Isles GM Lou Lamoriello is showcasing players as the trade deadline draws closer, prospects Aatu Räty and Samuel Bolduc have begun to prove they have legitimate NHL futures.

It's been a short sample for Bolduc, but he's proven himself at the lower levels before he made his NHL debut on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a two-time AHL All-Star. The 22-year-old Laval, Canada native didn't necessarily do anything in his debut that would really wow you. Instead, Bolduc slid into the lineup seamlessly, stepping in for an injured Noah Dobson. Bolduc displayed poise in all three zones and proved he wasn't afraid to use his 6'4", 220 lb frame registering three hits. He registered the least amount of ice-time taking 17 shifts for a total of 14:28 of ice time.

He followed his debut with another impressive performance, adding on about four minutes of ice time, taking 23 shifts for 18:07. Head coach Lane Lambert clearly displayed his trust in the rookie defenseman after a strong debut, and his encore performance panned out very similarly. It wasn't just the eye test for Bolduc that should have the Islanders and their fans excited. His small sample size between two games has analytically shown the Islanders are receiving more scoring chances on the ice rather when he's off. Thus far, Bolduc has totaled a 55.71 CF% and 59.92 xGF%. Again, it's a small sample size, but those are some elite numbers and the poise Bolduc has displayed thus far should translate well over a larger sample.

As for Räty, there's a reason why the Islanders were okay with burning a year on his entry-level contract. On Wednesday, Räty dressed and played in his 10th NHL game which feels like an indication that he'll stick around on the varsity squad for the remainder of the season. He's scored two goals in 10 games to this point, both which have been impressive as they've come at crucial times for the Islanders and because he's averaging just 8:48 of ice time per game. The analytics are less favorable in Räty's case, however, it's out of his control. For starters, his sample size is eight games larger than Bolduc's and he's been put in a bottom-6 role and for the most part, centering Matt Martin and Ross Johnston on the fourth line. Instead, it's the eye test that's most impressive for Räty as a player who is defensively responsible, plays well in all three zones, and has a knack for scoring in an important moment.

Wednesday nights game against the Ottawa Senators was a dud for the Isles, but zooming in a little closer, Bolduc and Räty were two of the Islanders best players. Räty finished the night with a 58.82 CF% and 65.63 xGF% while Bolduc registered 52.38 CF% and 66.71 xGF%. It was a promising performance from both rookies helping generate more scoring chances than allowing, and the high expected goal totals prove they're quality chances at that.

It's beginning to look like the Islanders need a decent shakeup with some new, young blood in the lineup. The performances from Räty and Bolduc have been encouraging signs the the Isles at least have a foundation with these two players to add to some of the other young players such as Dobson, Mathew Barzal, and Ilya Sorokin who are all likely to stick around in the inevitable retool. After deadlin their first round pick yer after year dating back to 2020, the development of Räty and Bolduc have been big boosts for an organization that looked to be severly lacking youth.