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2021 NHL Draft: Aatu Raty is a favorite

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Once projected as the top pick, Raty is still destined to be something.

2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, Semifinals: Canada vs Finland Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

Aatu Raty, eh? Man, where do I even begin?

This isn’t necessarily news to anyone who follows the upcoming NHL Entry Draft or, prospects as a whole — but Aatu Raty is an extremely divisive player.

It hasn’t always been that way, after all he was mine, and lot of of other scouts consensus number-one pick this time last year. But, like a lot of young players, development is filled with peaks and valleys. That’s certainly the case with the young Finn, his development hasn’t exactly been linear.

For the last two years, and even at the beginning of this season — a good chunk of the scouting community thought that Raty would be at worst, a top-five pick in the upcoming draft. As the season wore on, and due to Raty’s poor start in the Finnish Liiga, he began to slip down the rankings. Since then, there’s been a lot of discourse about what type of expectations should be placed on a player like Raty, some fair and some not.

In July, I expect a team is going to draft Raty in the first round and if it’s the Minnesota Wild, there’s still a lot to be excited about! Don’t get too caught up in the noise.

Pre-Draft Rankings

#3 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)

#19 by Corey Pronman/The Athletic

#16 by Scott Wheeler/The Athletic

#19 by FCHockey

What Scouts (Including Me) Are Saying

What I see when I watch Raty play is a player who’s got exceptional hands in tight, and can make space in the offensive zone. I don’t think Raty will ever be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, and that isn’t terribly important with his ability to create plays, and find shooting lanes. When he does shoot, he has an accurate, but average wrist shot. I’d like to see him add more shot variety in his game, and well, shoot the puck more.

Defensively, Raty is a player who is fairly responsible. He protects the puck well, but can be inconsistent. I’d like to see him gap up a bit sooner, and use his size to knock the puck off the rush. I think he has the tools to be a great 200-foot player in the NHL, but he’ll need to continue to refine them through better positioning and skating.

Raty’s skating is average, and I think this could hold him back from being an impactful NHL player. I’ve read interviews where he has spoken to working on his skating, and I’m hopeful this is something that can be corrected sooner than later. Speed wise, he leaves a lot to be desired. If he had a quicker first few strides, and could maintain that acceleration earlier in the stride, he’d be better for it. Again, these are things I’m sure he’s laser focused on heading into the draft.

There’s a lot to unpack in terms of the how and why of Räty’s rollercoaster progression to this point (which I delve into in the story hyperlinked below). A lot of his tools are assets that should serve him well within the North American game if/when he comes over, which helps with some of the challenges of projecting him forward today. He’s got a pro frame, quick hands, and a hard wrist shot (though he does tend to rattle a few too many of them off of the boards). His skating continues to be a focus for him as he works to build a little more agility into his power, which is already decent. When he’s engaged and active, he can be an effective forechecker who wins back possession and then makes plays off of the wall to the interior. When he’s playing with confidence with the puck, he’s also got the tools needed to create high-danger attempts for himself. I do worry about his decision-making, though, and there will continue to be ceiling and floor questions if his trajectory doesn’t begin to follow a steeper incline sooner rather than later. The parts are there, though, and I expect a big showing at next year’s world juniors could help him rebuild some of the confidence he’s lost. When he’s on his game, he’s still fun to watch.

-Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

After a really disappointing start for the season, Räty has improved his game a lot. Even though his point contribution has been a bit quiet, he has shown a lot of positive things at the Liiga level. Räty is a smart player with a good offensive toolset. He skates well, has good puck skills, and can shoot the puck, so he doesn’t particularly lack any skill but obviously needs to improve everything, like every prospect in the draft. I don’t really see Räty being more than a 2nd or a 3rd line center for an NHL organization, but he could be very good in that role, being a comprehensive 2-way center.

-Eetu Siltanen, Dobber Prospects

Raty is one of the biggest mysteries I can recall of the last few years watching prospects. He was a go-to player for Finland coming up, as the No. 1 center for a solid U18 age group last season and making Finland’s U20 team a year before his draft, while also playing well versus men. He looked like a high-skill playmaking center with good athletic tools. Then this season came and the offense disappeared. Raty’s game looked so simple between the junior and Liiga levels and he was cut from the U20 team. Various scouts have varying theories. Some think he lacks speed. Some think he lacks hockey sense.

I’ve seen enough over the years to still believe in the player, but it’s fair to say I approach him with a large degree of caution. He has skill in his game. He has quick-twitch hands and is great at handling the puck in small areas. He’s a fine, albeit awkward, skater who makes skilled plays on the move but needs to add more pace to his game. His playmaking and shot are both solid quality, but neither are spectacular. He has some physicality to his game and brings energy to shifts. That’s the Raty I think is there, and may show up in future years, but he didn’t this season. In a sentence, Raty projects as an NHL second-line center after being one of my top-ranked prospects coming into the draft season.

-Corey Pronman, The Athletic

Would He Fit In With The Wild?

All things considered, I believe the Wild would be a really great landing spot for a player like Raty. The Wild can absolutely benefit from extra depth on center, and having a player with Raty’s upside in the Wild system is always a good thing. Although he may never live up to the hype generated by his U20 World Juniors performance a few years back, I think it’s reasonable to assume that Raty will still be an impact player at the NHL level.

The development curve for European prospects can be a difficult one to navigate. I’m thinking about the CHL Import Draft coming up on June 30th, and I have to wonder if a CHL team would pick Raty and give him the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in Canada. Not that he necessarily needs meaningful minutes to continue to develop, but could this transition to North American ice, earlier on, be considered an asset to a player who’s been up in down in Finland? I guess we’ll see what happens.

Could The Wild Get Him?

Definitely. If I were the Wild, I’d pick Raty with either of the first round picks they have. I think his availability at No. 20 will depend on how much a team like Nashville values centers in the draft. They’re looking to stock the cupboards, too.

A Minnesota Relation

It’s probably a bit lazy in the eyes of some of our readers, but if everything breaks right — I think that Aatu Raty could turn out to be a Mikko Koivu type player. Yes, they’re both centers — yes, they’re both defensively responsible; too easy? Wait, let me Finnish.

Although Raty doesn’t have quite the size that Koivu has, it’s reasonable to assume that Raty could end up having the best parts of Koivu’s defensive skillset. I believe that Raty has considerably more offensive upside, but I think it’s an interesting argument to make.

Whatever happens, Raty’s trajectory will be interesting to follow.

2021 NHL Draft Board

  1. Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  3. Brandt Clarke — D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovenia)
  4. Luke Hughes — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  5. Dylan Guenther — LW/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  6. Simon Edvinsson — D, Frolunda (SHL)
  7. William Eklund — C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
  8. Kent Johnson — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  9. Mason McTavish — C/W, Peterborough Petes/EHC Olten (OHL/Swiss)
  10. Carson Lambos — D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
  11. Aatu Raty — C, Kärpät (Liiga)