Raty pushing through rollercoaster season
It has not been an easy year for Aatu Raty.
But things are looking up for the 2021 NHL Draft eligible forward.
Raty, at one point, was the projected No. 1 pick, had a slow start to the season and failed to make Finland’s entry at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, but has finally started to exhibit the high-end skill that had him sitting atop scouts’ early draft boards some 12 months ago.
“It motivated me more,” Raty said. “For me, I think I have a great work ethic, so it’s not about just working more because it will be two months I work that perfect amount. Every day when I arrived at the rink, I’m like, yeah, it’s a good day to be better and when I work my hardest.
“But, I think not making the team was a little more in the department of working even harder and smarter.”
Raty’s early success during the 2018-19 season with Karpat made it seem like it was going to be a smooth ride to the NHL. However, after the COVID-19 shutdown, Raty saw a significant drop in ice time and production.
But he’s less concerned about how that has impacted his draft stock.
Instead, he only has three things on his mind.
“Get to the playoffs, play well, and win the championship.”
Raty’s early success
During the 2018-19 season, Raty burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old with Karpat’s U20 entry, scoring 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 41 games. Amidst that, he helped Finland’s U17 team capture a silver medal at the World Under-17 Challenge.
Raty, though, got off to a slower start to the 2019-20 campaign, were again playing for Karpat’s U20 team he put up 21 points (two goals, 19 assists) in 30 contests.
Still, he began his pro career earlier than most.
The 6-foot-1 center had two goals and two assists playing during his first call-up to Karpat’s men’s team in Liiga. He then made Finland’s roster for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship as the youngest player in the tournament, registering three points (two goals, one assist).
Limited roles didn’t slow the Raty hype.
“It’s definitely hard to get playing time,” Raty said. “You know, on junior teams, there are the guys who have been playing the league for two or three years, and the coach has a relationship already with them, so it’s tougher.
“Then in the men’s league, you know, we have some guys who have played in the NHL and stuff like that. So those are pretty hard guys to fight for minutes with. I think that’s what has made me a better player and stuff like that.”
Raty’s slip from the top
Raty’s draft-eligible season has not been near as smooth as he hoped.
He has struggled to put up points this year, as he only has five points (three goals, two assists) in 25 games with Karpat’s men’s team.
“It’s been a tough season for me,” Raty admitted. “I didn’t start so well in the men’s league. I played a few games in the junior league and didn’t make the Under-20 World Championships roster. I was injured for like a few weeks.
“And then now, for like the last two or three weeks of my game has been going well, and I’m feeling great.”
It’s been a bit of a rally for Raty, who has had his share of disappointment.
“I kind of knew, like, months, months before the tournament that I wasn’t going to make the roster, so I was well prepared. But of course, I definitely would have liked to play there,” Raty said.
Raty knew that after the inconsistencies of last season, he had a lot of work to do.
“I think I’ve improved in the mental stuff definitely in the last year,” he said. “With the hockey stuff, I think my skating has been better lately, physicality, and two-way game. But those are still the still the things that I’m working on.”
Despite a tough year, dealing with injuries, the COVID-19 pause, and some prolonged scoring slumps that saw his ice time dwindle, Raty still possesses the high-octane puck skills that had scouts talking about him years before his draft rolled around.
Raty, No. 11 in FCHockey’s Winter ranking for the 2021 draft, is still sitting in and around the top prospects on most scout’s draft boards, and is almost assuredly a first-round pick.
“Raty’s stock has notably slipped as scouts have gotten more looks at him and evaluated his progression,” said Derek Neumeier, head of video scouting at FCHockey. “There are definitely some NHL-level tools at his disposal, in particular his puck skill and playmaking ability. He also has a great frame to work with, and he knows how to play quickly, even though he’s not an elite skater.
“However, his decision-making and awareness are often quite problematic, and his overall game hasn’t progressed as much year-over-year as you’d like to see in a top prospect. His raw talent will ensure that he doesn’t fall too far on draft day, but whichever team picks him will need to be patient and a little extra hands-on with his development.”
Both scouts, and Raty himself, feel as though he has made some improvements in the areas that plagued him throughout his down year. However, there is still a lot of work to make a successful transition to the NHL when the time comes.
“You just want to show everybody who’s watching you, or maybe only you in the game, and for those people that I’m a great player and stuff like that,” Raty said.
“But, I don’t feel any pressure.”
Raty and the 2021 Draft
Although Raty has been working hard, after all of the uncertainties surrounding hockey, the most important thing for him right now is not getting thrown off by all of the noise surrounding himself and the draft this year.
“I don’t even know when it’s going to be, so I don’t really think about it,” Raty said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of myself. I’m doing the work every day but don’t really think about the draft. I guess we’re living over the course of last year almost now in a state of uncertainty. So is this just another thing you look at and go, ‘This is out of my control.’
“I’m going to forget it.
“Let’s just focus on the 60 minutes that I play every single time I’m out on the ice.”
With files from Aaron Vickers