The narrative surrounding the NY Islanders in recent years whether the team has been sustaining success or not has been that they don't have a very good prospect pool. In fact, most "prospect pool rankings" peg the Islanders as one of the worst, if not, the worst prospect pool in the NHL. The latest The Hockey News prospect pool overview goes as far as to state that "(the) Islanders' prospect pool doesn’t just lack high-end talent in terms of a grade-A prospect, but it lacks depth as well."
Now, of course, that is just one outlet's opinion on the Isles, but the general consensus across multiple platforms is relatively the same. One thing that may not be the same, however, is the opinion that the Islanders don't have a "grade-A" prospect. This may be a fairly new opinion because of the descent and then ascent of the Isles top prospect, but Aatu Räty has certainly changed the narrative around his game and has begun to solidify himself again as a "grade-A" prospect.
Interestingly enough, in a recent fan poll gauging the Islander fans' opinion on how much they value Räty as a prospect, 64.1% of a near 1,000 votes pegged the Isles top prospect as "untradeable" (*warning: explicit language used in the poll).
The 19-year-old prospect that was once pegged as a top-3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft fell all the way to the second round, 52nd overall to the Islanders. You know how the story goes. Since hearing that he was drafted to the NHL, Räty has only driven his stock up with seemingly no end in sight.
After playing at nearly a point-per-game pace with Mikkelin Jukurit of Liiga, coming to North America and making an impact with the Bridgeport Islanders, and now playing on a grand stage at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships centering tournament favorite Finland's top line, Räty is looking more like the prospect scouts pegged him to before a brutal 2020-21 season plummeted his draft stock.
What makes the opinion on pegging Räty as "untradeable" interesting is that Islanders' win-now window is surely within the next few seasons. Most know that at this point if the Islanders were to make Räty available, he'd certainly fetch that top-line scoring help the Islanders have been searching for to play next to Mathew Barzal.
However, there is also the fact that if things don't go according to plan for the Islanders who are prepping for a rebound season in 2022-23, Räty just might be the kind of player a team builds around for the future. Outside of Räty, the Islanders' prospect pool holds a few more prospects that show some promise but are not of the same stature as the Finnish prospect. Those names include William Dufour, Simon Holmstrom, and Calle Odelius. The Islanders are certainly excited about Dufour after a historic season breaking records and recording milestones, as they should be for a player they drafted in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL Draft. Despite Dufour's positive play, it didn't come at the same level of competition as Räty's did playing against men in Liiga.
Räty's ascent as a top prospect has risen so high that he has the second-best odds to lead the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships in goals and points only to Anaheim Ducks top prospect Mason McTavish. As of Saturday morning, Räty is tied for second overall in points with five (two goals, three assists), trailing McTavish by three points after his four-goal performance against Slovakia.
It's not just Islander fans that have high expectations of Räty. In a recent interview with the NY Post, Finland's head coach Antti Pennanen stated:
"His offensive skills are really good. He can make some plays. He’s good on the power play and in that way, he’s going to lead our team."- Antti Pennanen
This comes after The Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy stated he believes that Räty is the game changer in the tournament that should see Finland sustain deep success. With all the praise and the success to back the excitement around Räty, you could see why Islander fans are pegging their team's top prospect as "untradeable." Räty is not just solidifying himself as a "grade-A" prospect but as one of the better prospects in the NHL overall. He could be in the NHL playing meaningful games sooner rather than later and with the dropoff in talent and lack of soon-to-be NHL-ready prospects after the 19-year-old center, Islander fans' "untradeable" mindset regarding Räty is certainly justified.