Time, of course, will be the ultimate judge. But forwards Aatu Raty and William Dufour could wind up as draft day steals for Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.
“I think they’re going to notice everybody,” Raty said on Friday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow after Day 2 of prospect development camp. “Everybody has the same chance to show what they can do. It’s going to be up to the coaching staff to decide who’s going to play in Bridgeport [AHL] or wherever. I’ll just do my best.”
Both figure to also get looks at the main training camp, which opens on Wednesday. They have not been able to showcase their offensive skills yet as the on-ice sessions again focused almost exclusively on skating drills.
Raty, once projected as a high first-round pick, slipped to 52nd overall in 2021 but blossomed last season after being traded from Karpat to Jukurit Mikkeli in Finland’s SM-liiga with 13 goals and 27 assists in 41 games. He added a goal and three assists in six playoff games for Bridgeport.
Dufour was a fifth-round pick in 2020 but gained strong notice last season with 56 goals and 60 assists in 66 games for Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had bounced around between three other teams in his first three junior seasons.
Both had standout performances in August’s World Junior Championships in Canada. Dufour helped lead Team Canada to a 3-2 overtime win over Raty’s Team Finland in the gold-medal game, scoring Canada’s second goal. Raty’s three goals and seven assists tied him for fourth in tournament scoring.
“I just want to be myself, no pressure on me,” Dufour said. “Just continue what I did last year. Try to play a two-game, like I did at the World Juniors. I think that’s more my type of game and just bring some offense.”
Dufour plays with a physical edge and Raty also has shown he can play well defensively. But the Islanders’ need for some dynamic offensive play has been apparent.
Raty has shown strong playmaking talents and Dufour likely has the best shot among the prospects in camp.
Still, barring training-camp injuries, earning a spot on the Islanders’ opening-night roster likely will be a long shot with 11 veteran forwards having roles and Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston also returning.
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Dennis Cholowski, 24, who signed a two-year, two-way contract with an annual average value of $762,500 in the NHL after splitting last season between the Kraken and Capitals, said a big part of his decision was based on previous informal chats with Lamoriello. “It’s a good opportunity,” said Cholowski, the 20th overall pick in 2016 by the Red Wings. “I’ve talked to Lou a few times over the year. I’ve always kind of been on his radar, I guess, a little bit. I was happy when they reached out eventually.”