Islanders’ DuFour, Raty To Battle For World Junior Gold

Canada's William DuFour (25) is stopped by Finland goalie Leevi Merilainen (1) during the second period of an IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship game on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022 in Edmonton, Alberta (JASON FRANSON / Associated Press)

If you’re an Islanders fan and a fan of watching the World Juniors, you’re getting the best of both worlds as the 2022 World Junior Championship wraps up.

On Saturday night, Team Canada and Team Finland will battle it out for junior hockey glory. The game will also feature a battle between two prospects that have made a name for themselves in the Isles’ farm system: William DuFour and Aatu Räty.

To any other fanbase, this matchup might seem rather “lackluster,” as neither player has the dazzle that comes with playing in the World Juniors as a first-round pick. But this matchup has a lot more upside than one might think.

On one side, we have Räty, a player who at one point was considered by many to be a first-round pick in 2021 but ultimately fell to the Isles in the second round at 52nd overall. The 19-year-old Finn also has something many participants in this tournament don’t- professional experience in North America.

Though he went pointless through two regular season games, Räty was a key contributor to the Bridgeport Islanders’ playoff run in the AHL as he posted four points in six games. Two of those were in overtime in the opening round against the Providence Bruins, with the latter being a series clincher in Game two in Bridgeport.

On the other side, we have DuFour, a player who’s flown under the radar until breaking out this past season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). In 60 games, DuFour potted 56 goals and 116 points, second in the league behind only Joshua Roy (his teammate with the Saint John Sea Dogs). DuFour’s efforts would earn him the Michel Briére Memorial Trophy as league MVP, and as fate would have it, that wouldn’t be all when it came to DuFour taking home some hardware. The Sea Dogs would also go on to win the Memorial Cup, and DuFour’s four points in five games earned him both the Ed Chynoweth Trophy as the tournament’s top scorer and the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as Memorial Cup Playoff MVP.

So now that we’ve taken a look at DuFour and Räty outside of this tournament, how have the two of them fared in this summer’s World Juniors?

Starting with DuFour, he’s had a solid tournament so far. In six games played, he’s got four assists and six points (point-per-game pace), good enough for 10th on a loaded Canadian roster with the likes of Mason McTavish, Kent Johnson, and projected 2023 first-overall pick Connor Bedard.

Räty has been outstanding for Finland. Through six games, he’s put up an impressive seven assists and 10 points. He was also a key piece in Finland’s semifinal victory over their rival, Sweden. In a 1-0 win for the Fins, Räty had a primary assist on the lone goal scored by Kasper Puutio, a fifth-round selection of the Florida Panthers from 2020. Räty is also only one point behind Predators prospect Joakim Kemell for the team lead and tied with Ducks prospect Olen Zellweger for third in overall tournament scoring.

It’s also important to note this won’t be the first duel between these two in this tournament. Canada and Finland already played each other in the round robin back on Aug. 15, a game that the Canadians took by a 6-3 final. Both players had a point, as Räty recorded an assist on a goal by Kemell, but that goal would cut Canada’s lead to 5-2. Finland managed to cut the deficit to two, but DuFour would get the last laugh with an empty netter to put the game away.

Räty isn’t the only Islanders prospect looking to win gold on Saturday, either. Defenseman Matias Rajaniemi (sixth-round pick in 2020) and forward Eetu Liukas (fifth-round pick in 2021) are also representing the blue and orange at Rogers Place.

Be sure to tune in to NHL Network at 8 pm EST as the Canadians look to avenge their loss in the 2021 World Junior Final while the Fins look to capture World Junior gold for the first time since 2019.

Stanley Cup Aspirations Cue’ the Duck Boats Pod

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