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Draft Profiles 2k21: Aatu Räty was once considered a 1st overall pick, and then he wasn’t. What happened to him?

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Let’s begin our look at the draft’s many prospects with one of the most unusual cases of all.

Analysis:

About two years ago, if you told a Draft analyst that Aatu Räty (Pronounced “Ah-too Rrr-ah-Too”, a “y” in Suomen is pronounced as an english “u”) could become a Boston Bruin, they would probably ask whether or not half the team was on IR, or ask how they ended up with the first overall pick. That’s how touted this kid from Oulunsalo was after his revelatory 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Nowadays, if you said that, most people will shrug and say “Yeah, 20th overall seems about right. He’ll probably do well there.”

A whole mess of hype, seemingly vanishing from the ether after two seasons. So while we try and figure out what happened to him, we also must wonder: what happened to Räty, and what made him fall possibly to Boston?

Räty himself is a fairly typical talented young forward for Oulun Kärpät, the Finnish powerhouse hockey club in Liiga. He has an incredible sense for the game, well-noted for a 200-foot game in the Liiga/SM-Sarja, a willingness to be a physical presence (a recent article about him in the Athletic prominently features him just pasting a guy), and his absolutely absurd stick skills, able to move a puck on a dime without ever once losing it and causing opposing defenses to look silly for even trying to catch him. Indeed, Räty, when he’s on his game, is a dangerous playmaker who can make goals through slick, accurate passing as well as make goals through a powerful, quick shot.

But if that’s the kind of dude he’s like when he’s on his game, why is he down at 20th instead of in the top 5 where people thought he was going to be?

Simply put, the points they thought he was going to have when he made it to Liiga never materialized. Mostly because he gained the reputation as being more of a perimeter player than previously analyzed. But it was a league-to-league thing; in U16 and U20, Räty was totally willing and able to attack the net and be a dangerous player in the most dangerous parts of the ice, but as his time in Liiga has worn on, he’s had to learn that against grown-ass men, there’s precious little time to make decisions and that’s gotten him pushed to the outside more often than not, and as a result his scoring has suffered greatly. In general, his 2021 was firmly not great for him: a measely 6 points in Liiga isn’t much to sneeze at, so clearly you should send him back to the U20 team for more seasoning right?

Well...Kärpät never actually did that once he played the 8 games he did, and in general it seemed like, according to his agent, the pressure really came down on him all at once; the need to succeed for Kärpät’s main-squad and U20 squad even with COVID and the constant shuffling apparently did quite a number on the kid as he felt like he needed to do everything, and it cost him. All of this finished up with the startling decision to not bring him back to the World Juniors, something very unusual for Finland to do. That seemed to wake him up however, and he finished much stronger a player than he did to begin the season, though he still only took limited minutes as a depth forward.

As for mechanical stuff, Räty’s biggest concerns are obviously his need to utilize a more aggressive, “dirty areas” part of the game that he’s shown plenty of capability to do, and also working on his skating; he’s nimble, able to move around in space with ease, but he’s not a high-end speed kind of player. Further, if he has to play a passive kind of defense, it’s clear he can look lost; he’s best when he’s harrying puck-carriers. Indeed, that level of aggression can sometimes catch him, as he can get dinged for poor discipline or hastiness.

Former NHLer Tuomo Ruutu had a lot of good things to say about Räty in an article in the Athletic, and seems confident that he could be a good player if guided in the right direction. At 20th overall, Räty, like any player picked in the first round this year past Matt Beniers or Fabian Lysell, will be a project as they try to get his development back on track thanks to the whole COVID thing. When he’s on, he has some truly game-changing skill, but his question-marks on whether the last two years are born from utter chaos or from a player plateauing are valid. But the positives do outweigh the negatives for the most part.

As a project late-1st overall player? I certainly think that he could find a home on the Boston Bruins, who love to reward 200-foot guys who like to get a little physical.

What do you think? Seem like the kind of player you’d like to take a chance on?

Rankings:

  • 11th by EliteProspects’ Consolidated Rankings
  • 20th by EliteProspects.com
  • 19th by FCHockey.com
  • 3rd by Neutral Zone Scouting
  • 12th by McKeen’s Hockey
  • 3rd by NHL Central Scouting among European players
  • 14th by Sportsnet
  • 13th by Recruit Scouting
  • 11th by DobberProspects
  • 15th by Draft Prospects Hockey
  • 14th by Smaht Scouting
  • 7th by The Puck Authority
  • 20th by TSN (Bob McKenzie)

Statistics

Year Team League Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
Year Team League Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM
2017-18 Kärpät U16 U16 SM-sarja Q 21 35 30 65 16
Kärpät U16 U16 SM-sarja 18 10 30 40 14
Kärpät U18 U18 SM-sarja 6 1 21 22 2
Finland U16 (all) International 11 7 10 17 6
2018-19 Kärpät U18 U18 SM-sarja 6 10 8 18 8
Kärpät U20 U20 SM-liiga 41 17 14 31 26
Finland U17 (all) International 13 3 3 6 4
Finland U18 (all) International 16 6 5 11 10
2019-20 Kärpät U20 U20 SM-liiga 30 8 19 27 28
Kärpät Liiga 12 2 2 4 2
Finland U18 (all) International 9 4 5 9 10
Finland U20 (all) International 12 3 1 4 4
2020-21 Kärpät U20 U20 SM-liiga 8 3 4 7 2
Kärpät Liiga 35 3 3 6 18
EliteProspects.com