Should the Flyers Gamble On Aatu Raty in Round One of the 2021 NHL Draft?

Flyers Wells Fargo Center
Flyers Wells Fargo Center (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

A new favorite emerges amidst Aatu Raty’s descent from the draft’s top prospect. Now, the Philadelphia Flyers can gamble for a superstar.

I’ve been sold on Mason McTavish to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft since I put out my first-round target article almost a month ago. A month later, I’m hoping Chuck Fletcher takes a risk on Aatu Raty.

Yes, Raty was left off Finland’s World Junior roster. Don’t let that alter your perception. His talent is still worthy of the “top prospect in this draft class” status. The pandemic has harmed the psyche of more than a few athletes. Thanks to a refocus in training while with Karpat in the Liiga, the Flyers can sneak away with an incredibly talented left-handed center at number thirteen overall.

Seven months ago, Raty was the top-ranked prospect of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft class. Now, he’s projected to be on the board between picks ten and twenty in the first round. It has nothing to do with an injury and everything to do with the mental pressure during a pandemic with the spotlight on him.

He’s to continue with Karpat in 2021-2022. A few players have jumpstarted their NHL career following another season in the Liiga. Most relatable to Raty could be Sebastian Aho. Both played for Karpat, and Aho’s father coaches Raty.

Just because a player isn’t on a World Junior roster doesn’t mean their skill doesn’t make them the top prospect.

Adverse World Junior Perception

Casey Mittelstadt and Jesse Puljujarvi are two players who gained their draft status on the back of their World Junior performance, then stumbled out of the gate for different reasons.

Mittelstadt, out of high school, was drafted eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2017. He gained momentum in college and went off in the World Juniors. His performance received critical acclaim. He was a Calder Trophy favorite in his rookie season with the Sabres but didn’t receive a vote.

Puljujarvi performed greater than Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine in the World Juniors. He’s struggled just like Mittelstadt. Puljujarvi arguably needed one more season with Karpat before transitioning to the NHL. Subtle fine-tuning after exploding in the World Juniors would have made Puljujarvi more valuable than Nolan Patrick presently. I’ll spare you my sales pitch for that trade experiment for now.

These players had their draft profile boosted by the World Junior perception. They’ve performed at relatively the same rates through three separate NHL divisions, on three different teams, at three unique stages of team quality. Where they went in the draft versus their play at the NHL level does not match.

How the Flyers Should Handle Raty Post-Draft

Without a doubt, Aatu Raty should continue with Karpat for another season as planned. In deciding to select Raty, Chuck Fletcher must understand he needs to be patient. Under a tailor-made regime for the Fletcher and Alain Vigneault era, the front office needs to be close with Raty.

After his 2021-2022 season with Karpat, Raty can show up to training camps with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Ian Laperriere may be the perfect fit because of his undeniable ability to connect with players.

The opportunity to select someone who was considered the draft class’ top prospect isn’t something you pass up without a moment to think. Raty is a game-changer who could go a long way in replacing the Philadelphia Flyers veteran core in the seasons after this upcoming expansion. Considering who Raty is being coached by, Fletcher should consider him at thirteenth overall. Look what patience did for Sebastian Aho. The Flyers could use someone with that productivity right now.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre