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21 Days of 2021 NHL Draft Prospects: #1 — Aatu Raty

Saved the first overall favorite for last.

Aatu Räty oli pelipäällä Suomen voittaessa Slovakian.
KUVA © JARI MÄKI-KUUTTI
Aatu Raty Fast Stats 2019-20
Lauren Kelly

Here we go! The final player profile of the 21 Days series is none other than the current projected favorite for the first overall pick in 2021. Aatu Raty could be the first-ever Finn to be drafted first overall in the NHL, and he’s built an incredibly strong case for himself over the years.

Raty is a late-2002 birthday, which means he is one of the older players in this draft class (though not even the oldest in this series). A strong and well-rounded player, Raty has always played above his age group and excelled.

Raty played for Karpat’s U-16 team as a 14-year old, putting up a remarkable 57 points in 40 games in both leagues he played in that season. He followed that up with 65 points in 21 games the following season and was promoted to the U-18 team. Raty put up 31 points in 41 games with Karpat’s U-20 team two seasons ago, and was actually promoted to the Finnish men’s league last season.

Raty, whose older brother Aku (yeah, that wasn’t confusing at all during the World Juniors) also plays in the Karpat system, was drafted last June by the Arizona Coyotes in the fifth round. The brothers, who were born 16 months apart, have almost always played on the same team, and sometimes even on the same line (Aku plays right wing, Aatu is a center). They played on Finland’s fourth line at the 2019 World Juniors as underagers and both put up three points as the team finished fourth.

The first time I really watched Raty’s game closely (up until that point, I had only seen extended highlights) was at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, and I was very impressed with the underager’s performance.

A calm puck carrier, Raty uses his strong and agile skating to maneuver the puck around the ice while his large frame protects the puck from opponents. His wrist shot is heavy and accurate, and Raty can open up different shooting areas on the ice by deking out and curling the puck around defenders to change the shooting angle.

Raty is an excellent skater and dictator of the game when he has the puck on his stick. Though his offensive production doesn’t necessarily stand out in Liiga this season, he was a dominant possession player amongst men and drove play consistently for Karpat in the 12 games he did play.

Lauded for his defensive awareness and play, Raty is a reliable and effective player in his own end. When he plays in younger age groups and amongst his peers, Raty excels in defensive situations. While he does struggle a little more in his own end while playing against men, as he continues to grow stronger and adapt to the pace of the men’s game, Raty’s defensive development will improve there as well.

Raty is a confident line-driving center with a multi-faceted skillset, and though his projection isn’t necessarily an elite franchise player, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Raty be a number one center in the NHL one day. Already pro-sized, Raty’s combination of strength, mobility and defensive awareness will make it difficult for other prospects to knock him out of top spot in 2021.

Strengths: Skating, Defense (vs. Peers), Shot

To Improve: Defense (vs. Older Opponents)

Quotables

The younger of the Räty brothers, Aatu is a big, strong center who has pretty solid wheels. He gets around the ice with no issue and possesses the strength to play against men already. He has a big wrist shot and a willingness to get to the net. He may not be a true ‘franchise player’ but he has the chance to be a very solid number one center. He plays a mature game and consistently performs well against advanced competition. He isn’t a lock to go number one but he is certainly the early favorite. He could end up being the first Finn to go first overall in the NHL draft. [Dobber Prospects]

A smart defensive player, Raty’s true bread and butter is how he attacks every play, never letting his guard down even in blowout contests. He can find his way out of most situations with the puck and his straight-line speed makes him tough to stop. [The Hockey News]

Raty was Finland’s number one center and looked a stronger, faster version of himself from last season. He showed off his excellent hand-eye coordination, skating, and playmaking abilities and finished with four points in five games. Raty’s edges and puck control allow him to create space for himself and his teammates to create offense. [Raw Charge]

Highlights

Statistics from Elite Prospects.