Liiga Review: NHL hopefuls Juuso Pärssinen and Aatu Räty on two different paths

LIIGA / Artikkeli
Juuso Pärssinen has high expectations his season after returning from the Predators training camp.
Kuva © Timo Savela
TPS’s Juuso Pärssinen and Kärpät’s Aatu Räty both wish to play in the NHL sooner or late, but the road to stardom could not be more different.

October in Liiga started off with a bang as HPK announced they had released the head coach Matti Tiilikainen from his duties along with two assistant coaches. The team only tallied five points in eight games in the first month and with a turbulent previous season under Tiilikainen's lead, it was time for a change.

That change came in the form of former HIFK coach Jarno Pikkarainen under whom HPK have won three out of five games. Pikkarainen's teams are usually known for physical play, however, upon his arrival, he made it clear it was more important to fix the existing problems instead of introducing entirely new tactics.

Juuso Pärssinen − too good for the league?

Despite his young age, the 20-year-old TPS centre Juuso Pärssinen is one of the leading players in Liiga. The player first entered the league in the 2018−19 season playing seven games, but it wasn't until the 2020−21 season that we really saw what the player was capable of.

By the end of the 2020−21 regular season, TPS's alternate captain Pärssinen was the only under 20-year-old player in the top 15 scorers in the entire league. He was also one of the driving forces in the playoffs leading TPS to the Liiga finals.

Jatkoaika interviewed the Nashville Predators' 7th round pick from the 2019 NHL Draft about his experiences at the Predators training camp and what the expectations for this season are.

− My Nashville trip was great; it was really educational. I saw that I'm on the right path, but it wasn't my time yet to play in the Predators, Pärssinen told Jatkoaika.

Even if now wasn't the time for Pärssinen to battle his way into the NHL roster, the determined young player sees the area where he needs to work on the most throughout the season in Liiga.

− The game is faster in the NHL, and everything needs to happen quicker. I managed to get somewhat used to it in the three weeks I spent there, and if I can keep that speed up on the bigger ice here, it will make my own play easier. I can't stick to the speed that is enough for Liiga.

Pärssinen managed to play two games before leaving for the camp in which he had one goal and one assist but upon returning to TPS he showed exactly why he was the first line centre in last season's Liiga finals. In the three games since his return Pärssinen has played with an average of 17 minutes a game and tallied one goal and three assists.

Aatu Räty needs to find a suitable role and playing regular minutes.
Kuva © Sirpa Pöyhönen - sirpa.poyhonen@jatkoaika.com

The curious case of Aatu Räty

Over the past year, Kärpät centre Aatu Räty experienced what some would say is a fall from grace. The player was once projected as the first overall pick for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft but in the end wasn't drafted until by the 52nd pick in the second round by the New York Islanders.

Whereas the other NHL hopeful Juuso Pärssinen has secured his place in his team's top six, Räty has had trouble adjusting into his team.

Since entering the league in 2019−20, Räty has mostly played the average of 11 minutes per game whilst jumping between second to fourth line to being scratched from the lineup. After returning from the Islanders training camp the same routine has continued.

The player's situation in Oulu becomes even more intriguing with Islanders head coach Barry Trotz giving Räty a lot of praise throughout training camp, especially when Trotz rarely talks about 18-year-old players in the way he talked about Räty.

It led to the point where Islanders fans showed off their displeasure on Twitter over Räty's role in Kärpät whereas Kärpät fans don't seem to think he has what it takes to be on the team claiming lack of passion in the game. There's no right or wrong answer in this discussion as the Islanders fans have the right to worry about the development of their prospect as much as the Kärpät fans have the right to demand more from him.

But if Räty's decline in Kärpät continues, it might be time to search for new options to help him get his game to the level where it needs to be. Because if there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that a young player isn't going to develop himself sitting on the bench.

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