New York Islanders top prospect Aatu Räty got a taste of the NHL life for a seven-game span from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6. After being back in Bridgeport for about 10 days, Räty finds himself back up with the big club after Cal Clutterbuck suffered an injury against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
At Saturday’s morning skate, Räty took line rushes with Matt Martin and Ross Johnston, the same role he played during his first seven games in the NHL.
The 20-year-old scored two goals in his first seven-game stint, showcasing strong positional play and his elite shot.
Before Räty was sent down, NYI Hockey Now caught up with the young forward to get his take on life in the NHL.
Räty on First NHL Stint
For Aatu Räty, his first taste of North American hockey came last season following the conclusion of his season in the Finnish Elite League. He joined the Bridgeport Islanders for their final two regular-season games with no points but notched a goal and three assists in six playoff games.
His one goal was a big one, sending Bridgeport to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
After showing well during Islanders development and training camp this past summer and fall, he was one of the final cuts. He went down and played 23 games, with five goals and seven assists, before the Islanders called him up.
Throughout his first seven career NHL games, Räty scored two goals, one coming in his NHL debut against the Florida Panthers on home ice, while the other came against the Vancouver Canucks on the road.
Here’s Räty’s goal against Canucks netminder Spencer Martin, as the talented forward walked me through his thought process:
Aatu Raty’s making quite the impression for the @NYIslanders. 🔵🟠
The 20-year-old’s already got two goals five games into his NHL career. pic.twitter.com/exE1NzSrgb
— NHL (@NHL) January 4, 2023
“First, you gotta be aware if it’s gonna be a pass or a shot for a rebound,” Raty said. “But yeah, it was going to be a pass. Usually, you go one-timer or try to go glove side if the goalie is not ready.”
“But I felt it wasn’t quite there for the one-time strike. I mean, I like to shoot low blocker. I think it was there, but it’s such a quick read. I don’t think I really saw that goaltender.”
As for traveling on the road for the first time as an NHLer, playing four of seven games out West, Räty loved the experience.
“Very cool. First time there,” Räty said about the trip. “Nice hotels. Lots of people there […] I really liked it.”
As for what he learned being on the ice and in the room: “I mean, a lot. You have to be aware. Look at other centers. Look at other players, see what they do…Same wall plays, some tactics, and some face-off stuff. There’s a lot to learn from these players.
“Every night, we’re playing really, really, really good players, top players in the world. And we have some of them here too, in the locker room. So, therefore, I just gotta try to absorb everything.”
Räty shared that he was closest with Robin Salo, given both being Finnish, and learned a lot from Jean-Gabriel Pageau in regard to face-offs.
Räty Back Up
After getting a taste of NHL action and then another few games in the AHL, Räty is back and is excited to continue to showcase his skill sets to Lambert and upper management.
The most significant question mark surrounding Räty is if general manager Lou Lamoriello will let the young forward reach 10 games at the NHL level. If he does play in 10 games, he will burn a year off his entry-level deal, and in a salary cap world, every little dollar counts.
Here’s how that works: Islanders Should Not Let Räty Reach 10 Games, ELC Explained
Räty was asked if he had given any thought to that.
“I want to play as many games as I can. That’s not really on my mind that much,” Räty said. “Just gotta focus on the games and then try to be as good as I can.”
As for how he thought he showed in his first NHL stint: “I had a lot of confidence after being here. I thought my game was good enough […] So that obviously gives you a lot of confidence.”
When sent back down to Bridgeport, the goal was for Räty to play top-six minutes and play in all situations,s and he did just that.
“I played a few games down there, a lot of minutes, and a great role. So that’s always good,” Räty said. “And I feel like they’re only kind of playing on the weekends, which [gives you] a lot of time to practice.”
“So kind of being on the ice, sometimes, like over two hours a day…I mean, that’s always really good for development.”
Linemate Matt Martin told NYI Hockey Now that he’s just a talent.
“I just think he’s very talented, very responsible for a young guy on both sides of the puck,” Martin said. “He just knows the right places to be, plays well defensively, is in the right spots on breakouts and things like that. Rarely have to talk to him about where he’s supposed to be. He pays attention to it so well, understands the game so well.”
“In the offensive zone, he’s talented and can help produce offensively as well. So he was great when he was up, and looking forward to playing with him again tonight.”