Photo Credit – Oulun Kärpät / Iikka Pirttikoski
For many draft analysts and scouts, Finnish centreman, Aatu Räty is on the top of the list of 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospects.
This past season, Räty split his time between the Liiga and Jr. A SM-Liiga. To kick off the season, he played in six games for Kärpät in the Jr. A SM-Liiga, in which he tallied nine points (one goal and eight assists). Given his strong start, Kärpät decided to test Räty out in Liiga play. When Räty was called up, he spent quite a bit of time on the same forward line as his brother Aku Räty (Arizona Coyotes prospect). At first, Räty seemed rather efficient in the offensive zone for Kärpät, given his strong production in the first few games. After four games in the Liiga, Räty was a point-per-game player with four points. But, after his booming slap shot goal against SaiPa on October 15th, it seemed as if Räty had lost his offensive mojo. Kärpät had experimented with Räty at right wing for a couple of games (including a Champions League match against Skellefteå AIK), but that did not seem to be working. With the experiment not paying dividends, Räty was sent back down to Jr. A SM-Liiga, in which he began to shine yet again. Given his success, Kärpät decided to give him another look in some Liiga play. Unfortunately, his second stint in the Liiga was rather quick and he was kept off the scoresheet in four matches. This resulted in Räty going back down to Jr. A SM-Liiga.
Outside of league play, Räty was part of the Finnish World Junior Championship roster. He was featured in all seven World Junior games and tallied three points (two goals and one assist). One of his goals at the World Juniors was a highlight-reel goal in which he scored a wrap-around goal against Slovakia.
Räty’s Style Of Play
Räty is a menace in the offensive zone. He controls the cycle quite well. If there is a decent amount of traffic in front of Räty, he will opt to make tight turns/pivots to fool his opponents and give himself some more space. When Räty is completing a turn, you can expect his turn radius to be pretty tight. This allows him to dance around his opponent without error.
In addition, Räty has an accurate shot and can deliver throughout the offensive zone. He has a heavy slap shot, with which he can drain shots from the blue line. When he is featured on the power play, he can often be seen along the half wall and will often execute wrist shots once he has a clear opening to the net. Also, his shot will often pave the way for rebound goals. Given how accurate Räty is with his shot, if he feels that he is too far out, but he sees a teammate by the crease, he will deliver a wrist or slap shot to the goaltender’s pads and more than often that will lead to a rebound.
When he is looking to complete a pass, Räty will often utilize a drop pass when he is controlling the cycle, but he will also deliver crisp tape-to-tape slot passing.
Räty seems to always look for the optimal forecheck and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on his opponents, but do not expect Räty to deliver a booming hit. He will not use his body to complete a body-check nor a hip-check. While he is aggressive, Räty will consistently look to swipe the puck away with a poke-check.
When Räty is in transition, he often will not gain possession of the puck until his defensemen have completed a zone exit. When he has possession of the puck in the neutral zone, he will often opt to deliver a zone entry pass rather than carry the puck into the offensive zone himself.
In the defensive zone, he will often park himself in front of his net and look to assert dominance over the forward who is parking himself in the slot. When Räty is not in front of his net, you can often find him out on patrol. Typically, Räty is not a big back-checker, instead he sits back in a “support” or an “insurance” type role. Räty is there to ensure that if his teammate and his opponent get tangled up and loose sight of the puck then he will be able to jump on the puck to secure it. While that is his role and he is efficient at it, given his size, I suspect that most NHL general managers and scouts would prefer that he will execute back-checks. For Räty to be the first overall selection at the 2021 NHL Draft, he needs to work on his physical game in the defensive zone.
Let’s move to skating. Räty is fantastic with his crossovers. As I mentioned above, given Räty’s tight turn radius, he can execute robust crossovers to help propel his stride.
Aside from his crossovers, when you watch Räty’s game tape closely, you will see that he has a bit of a heavy foot. Due to his heavy foot, Räty’s speed and edges are not always sound. The good thing is that he is still developing and growing as a hockey player. There is plenty of time for Räty to further develop his skating. Plus, keep in mind that a lot of prospects at 16 and/or 17 years old need improvement with their skating ability.
All-in-all, there is a lot to like about Räty. He certainly has the potential to be the number one selection at the 2021 NHL Draft. Sure, there is a possibility that you could see a defenseman like Carson Lambos, Brandt Clarke or Luke Hughes steal the spotlight at the draft, but do not rule Räty out. If he can continue to develop his physicality, defensive play and forward stride, he will be dangerous.
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
stats from eliteprospects.com