2021 NHL Draft Ranking: Finnish prospects (December 2019)

Jokke Nevalainen

2019-12-02

 

The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is still a year and a half away but I feel like I already have a good idea of what the draft class looks like for European prospects and Finnish prospects in particular. I am planning on putting together a 2021 ranking of European prospects in the spring but before that, I’ll let you know what the Finnish group looks like.

 

I have watched the players I ranked between three and 24 times according to my notes about them. Obviously that number 24 is for the guy at the top of the ranking. There are a couple of others that have looked interesting but because I’ve only seen them once or twice, I didn’t feel comfortable ranking them just yet.

 

In general, the 2021 draft class doesn’t look like anything special for Finland. But there is one thing that truly stands out from it and that is the top ranked Finn who is also the consensus top ranked player in the world for the 2021 NHL Draft. Despite our great run of top five picks, Finland has never had a first overall draft pick in its history. But right now, everything is pointing towards Aatu Räty becoming the one who changes history and finally breaks that barrier.

 

Aatu’s older brother Aku was drafted in the fifth round by the Arizona Coyotes this past summer, and although Aku is also a good prospect, there’s no question as to which one is better. Aatu has been well-known for about a year now and his position at the top of the draft class hasn’t really been threatened or challenged by anyone during that time.

 

Finland has had players like Kaapo Kakko, Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov who have been good enough to go first overall but unfortunately they happened to be in the same draft with players who were just slightly better: Jack Hughes, Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon. Räty is not necessarily better than any of those second overall picks but he has the good fortune of not having a Hughes, Matthews or MacKinnon in his draft class.

 

In addition to Räty, the 2021 draft class has a couple of other Finns with definite first round potential and a couple more who could potentially get there. That amount is great but has also been pretty normal for Finland these past few years. Let’s go through all 16 players, including my thoughts about them and their projected draft ranges.

 

 

  1. Aatu Räty, C – Kärpät U20 – 6-1, 181 lbs – Draft range: Top 3 (1-3)

 

Räty has all the tools to become a very good number one center at the NHL level. His size is not going to be an issue because he’s already big enough to compete against men. He is an excellent skater who can push the pace of the game, and it’s almost impossible to prevent him from entering the offensive zone with possession of the puck. He has an excellent wrist shot, and his release is quick and at times difficult for goalies to see. He is also great at making plays, including some very creative ones. He is a quick thinker who is able to stick-handle through traffic and make plays at high speed. He works very hard on the ice and has been getting better at using his size to protect the puck and win battles by the boards.

 

Räty has already played a few games against men at the Liiga level. He is expected to be a top player for Finland at the U18 Worlds in the spring but before that, he is expected to play a middle-six role at the U20 World Juniors. He is on the older side for his draft class but nonetheless, those are impressive accomplishments for someone who just turned 17 r