On January 30, 2023, the Vancouver Canucks traded Captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders, securing Aatu Räty, Anthony Beauvillier, and a 2023 First Round Pick in return. While the first-round pick was the main attraction, and Anthony Beauvillier's role primarily balanced the cap considerations, Räty's inclusion was pivotal for the Canucks as it symbolized an investment in future talent and potential. Beauvillier and the 2023 first-round pick, each boosted with additional draft capital, were later traded for defensemen Filip Hronek and Nikita Zadorov. Thus, Räty is the lone piece from the initial trade.
Räty initially drew significant attention ahead of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and was expected to be a top-10 pick due to his standout international performances with Finland. Still, Räty’s performance took a turn for the worse during the second half of the 2020-2021 season and so did his draft stock. Ultimately, the Islanders selected him 52nd overall, 11 picks after the Canucks chose Danila Klimovich. Returning to Finland, Räty played for Kärpät and Jukurit in the Liiga, compiling an impressive 41 points in 47 games at just 19 years old. At the end of the 2021-2022 season, Räty moved to North America. He participated in two regular-season games for the Bridgeport Islanders, unable to register a point, but during the playoffs, he played in six games, scoring four points.
Räty shared his playing time between New York and Bridgeport the following season. While he participated in 12 NHL games, contributing just two points, his stint with Bridgeport spanned 27 games, where he scored 15 points, reflecting a performance that could be considered fairly average. Little did he know that these would be the last games he played in the Islanders organization.
On February 23, 2023, Räty made his debut with the Canucks against the St. Louis Blues in what turned out to be an uneventful night, mirroring his brief stint with the team. In a limited role across three NHL games, he managed one assist before being reassigned to the AHL and joining the Abbotsford Canucks. During his 25-game stretch with Abbotsford, Räty scored twice and tallied 10 assists, then added another goal across the span of three playoff games. Despite the initial underwhelming showcase, the organization maintained optimism about Räty's future, considering he was just 20 years old.
After enduring two less-than-stellar seasons in North America, the expectations for young Aatu Räty reached new heights for the 2023-2024 season. Rising to the challenge, Räty has showcased his scoring prowess with an impressive 22 points (Eight goals, 14 assists) in 33 games. Notably, the Canucks prospect has increased his production and expanded his role, demonstrating his evolution into a dependable penalty-killer and a key contributor on the power play. Displaying versatility, Räty proves effective in faceoffs and showcases his ability to transition to the wings when needed seamlessly. The challenge of playing for four coaches and four teams in the last two seasons undoubtedly affected Räty. Still, the stability found in Abbotsford has allowed him to flourish and properly develop.
At 21 years old, Aatu Räty emerges as one of the Canucks' most promising prospects. As a natural center with versatility on the wing, he possesses soft hands and a high hockey IQ, adept at creating openings for himself and his teammates. However, concerns about his skating ability are a potential challenge as the NHL leans into faster play. The reassuring news is that Räty has ample time to refine his skills before making his mark in the NHL, offering hope for a promising future with the Canucks.