As the Bridgeport Islanders’ regular season was winding down and they were pushing for a playoff spot, the team received a boost when the New York Islanders assigned 2021 second round pick Aatu Raty to Bridgeport in time to play in their final two regular season games this past weekend. The 19-year-old center from Finland had just completed his season in Europe and now it was time for him to begin his North American professional career and gain some experience before reporting to Islanders training camp in September.
Raty played in those final two regular season games and now that Bridgeport is playoff bound, he’ll get at least two more games under his belt as the B-Isles open up a best-of-three opening round series against the Providence Bruins on Monday.
The Islanders’ top prospect is already turning heads.
“His habits in practice,” said Bridgeport Head Coach Brent Thompson. “His work ethic. His brain. His hockey IQ is off the charts. Another guy that’s reliable as far as the 200-foot game. He’s been able to play a heavy game. He fits that North America mold and has those little offensive instincts. I’m excited to see him continue to develop and grow through this playoff run.”
In his first two games with Bridgeport, Raty did not register a point, but he is coming off of a brilliant season with Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga. He had 3 goals and 27 assists for 40 points in 41 games for Jukurit and his highlight videos became a big hit with Islanders Country on social media as they were following his progress. His brings a tremendous skillset and a strong work ethic to the Islanders organization and it’s evident to his new teammates just how good he is and how good he can be.
Raty is also not afraid to get into the dirty areas.
“He plays the game hard,” said forward Chris Terry, Bridgeport’s leading scorer. “I would say he doesn’t shy away from contact or going in the corners. He’s a big strong young kid but he can probably fill into his body a little bit but he’s not afraid to go in the corner.”
Raty did get his first taste of the North American game when he attended New York Islanders training camp before this season and was able to participate in a couple of pre-season games. He’ll now have the opportunity to help Bridgeport compete for a Calder Cup.
“I think it’s going to be huge,” said Thompson. “Just this little sample size will help him moving into training camp (in the fall) and give him a little more confidence. He’s already a confident kid but this will boost it a little bit that he belongs.”
Raty’s arrival in Bridgeport has created some excitement for Islanders fans as a disappointing season on Long Island will end on Friday night without a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is great anticipation to see what he can do with the B-Isles and how much of a push he can make for a roster spot with the big club this fall. It’s expected that Raty will start next season with Bridgeport, but with the Islanders in need of more scoring, he will certainly be given a long look in pre-season games.
In his first two games for Bridgeport, Raty played on a line with Austin Czarnik and Michael Dal Colle and he’s already made an impression.
“He’s a good player,” said Czarnik who saw some time in the NHL this season. He’s got good vision on the ice. He can make plays and he’s not afraid the shoot the puck. You need shooters on your lines and he’s one of those guys. Obviously, it’s still a learning curve a little bit but I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and I’m excited to see how he does in the playoffs here.”
Raty is 6-2 and 185 pounds, but he certainly looks a bit different now than he did when the Islanders organization first got a look at him back in training camp. He needed to get bigger and strong and it certainly looks like that’s the case.
“He’s filled out,” said Thompson. “He’s a thicker kid. He reads the play well. He has the ability to be creative and to set guys up yet he’s responsible in the 200-foot game and he’s responsible down low. He’s physical. That size was a pleasant surprise to me because I didn’t remember him being as big as he was. He’s definitely grown and put on some muscle mass and that’s an exciting thing to see.”
While Raty has a physical element to his game, something that will certainly endear him to New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz, it will be his offensive abilities that will ultimately excite the organization and the fan base. He’s already had a number of scoring opportunities in Bridgeport and the team is banking on him sending a lot of pucks to the back of the net as the B-Isles try to compete for a championship.
“We’re really happy to have him,” said Terry. “I think he adds another element to our top six or top nine forwards with the high-end skill that he possesses and I think his goal scoring around the net his knack to put the puck in the net will obviously help in the playoffs.”
Islanders fans can make the short drive to Bridgeport to see Aatu Raty in person on Wednesday night when the B-Isles host Providence in game two at Total Mortgage Arena. The organization and the fans are hoping there are more opportunities for Raty to shine in the playoffs and then there will be a summer filled with anticipation as the Islanders’ big prospect gets ready for training camp.