After finally trading captain Bo Horvat, the Vancouver Canucks get a return package highlighted by the intriguing Aatu Raty.
The return of Anthony Beauvillier, Raty and a top-12 protected 2023 first-round pick fit just about everything the Canucks wanted in a deal. They get a draft pick to build for the future and a player that can jump into the lineup right away in Beauvillier. But the remaining piece is worth a deeper look.
Once heralded as the top prospect in the 2021 draft class, Raty had the tools and talent to be a real difference-maker. An unfortunate draft year with uneven play led to Raty falling down the draft board. The Finnish center was playing in the Liiga against men, struggling to find the scoresheet despite his strong underlying numbers.
Raty had just three goals and three assists with Karpat in the 2020-21 season and saw his draft stock fall. By season’s end, he went from a player vying for a top-three selection to 20th on consensus among the highest regarded public draft boards. THN’s Ryan Kennedy had him at 20th, matching the consensus, while he was ninth on my draft board.
Public analysts held some optimism because Raty was a good skater despite his stride not always being the most efficient. He also had above-average puck skill, possessed NHL size and displayed impressive shooting talent on several occasions. The process was there, but the finish never came through in that draft year.
Despite public consensus being what it was, Raty’s fall was worse than anyone had expected. The Islanders were applauded for stopping his fall by selecting him 52nd overall.
The following season, the player once considered a top-end prospect returned. Raty went from playing with Karpat in a system that never really fit his game to playing with Jukurit. He found more consistency, and because his physical tools and processing came together, he put up 40 points in 41 games.
Raty joined the AHL’s Bridgeport Islanders at the end of the Liiga season and acclimated himself to the North American ice with a short two-game stint to finish what was celebrated as an outstanding draft+1 season.
The biggest development year-over-year, aside from physical maturing, was Raty’s increased effectiveness in using his teammates. Rather than attempting to attack every play head-on with solo efforts, Raty was more willing to play tic-tac-toe hockey, making passes and presenting himself as a return option through the neutral zone. This allowed him to open more space for himself and diversify his attack patterns.
Used primarily in a forechecking and puck retrieval role with Karpat, Raty was more involved in moving the puck up ice and focused on maintaining possession rather than recovering it. This put Raty in a position to succeed by using his puck skill and protection ability. It allowed him to open up in space and unleash the wicked wrist shot that made him such an impressive prospect in his U-16 and U-17 seasons.
Raty has always brought an element of physicality to the game in the mold of a power forward. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound player is effective on the boards and regularly drives the center lane, traits he brought to North America.
Playing for Bridgeport this season, Raty continued the revenge tour he started after his draft day fall. His 15 points ranked him seventh in points-per-game on the team in his rookie season, and he was a regular contributor on both special teams. Raty understood how to play a smart and effective two-way game, boasting one of the best goal differential percentages of any player on the team despite playing a depth role.
Raty continues to mature into his frame and has begun to use his strength to find space in the slot and cut in more consistently. Understanding he can hold off defenders or keep the puck in a board battle, Raty’s displayed more patience with the puck.
His play this season had earned him a call-up to the NHL club for a dozen games. He played minimal minutes with the New York Islanders but found a way to score the first two goals of his NHL career. The first came in his NHL debut, and the second came against the same Canucks team he now joins.
The Canucks need to rebuild more than they realize. Despite president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin talking about retooling on the fly, the reality is that the Canucks are closer to the basement than contending.
They discussed wanting NHL bodies and players capable of helping in the immediate future. While they did get Beauvillier, the key pieces to this deal are the first-round pick and their new key prospect, Aatu Raty.
Raty gives Vancouver a legitimate center prospect who could be a full-time NHLer as soon as next year and a player who plays a projectable, two-way game with power-forward upside. Raty may not project to the NHL as a No. 1 center, but he could slot in as a sound middle-six center with power-play utility.
With the Canucks already planning on initially sending Raty to AHL Abbotsford, the Canucks may struggle to score as Horvat was one of their best goal-scorers, and Beauvilier isn’t going to produce anything near that level. It would be surprising if Raty didn’t make his Vancouver debut at some point as the season winds down, but the team shouldn’t rush it.
Raty has a chance to be a big part of the Canucks’ future. They may just have to fall face-first into a few more shrewd deals over the next few months to make it all worthwhile.
- Canucks Get a Fascinating Prospect in Aatu Raty
- Check all news and articles from the latest NHL updates.