Ty Rattie and Pontus Aberg were drafted in the 2nd round in 2011 (32nd overall) and 2012 (37th overall) respectively. They were both cast-offs from the teams that drafted them as well. Fast-forward to March 2018, and they are both having success in opportunities with the Edmonton Oilers. The question is who is better?
Rattie was drafted 2nd overall in his bantam draft behind none other than current line-mate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He had 121 points in his 3rd year in junior, and he increased his points per game in his final junior season despite finishing with only 110 points. Rattie was the Blues’ most prized prospect, but he could never play his way into the line-up on an everyday basis. He was claimed off waivers by the Hurricanes in January 2017. He recorded 2 assists in 5 games for them, then was put on waivers again a month later, only to be re-claimed by the Blues. Rattie never had a longer look than 13 games at a time with them. He certainly did not get an opportunity to play with any of their top players for any length of time. Perhaps he was a victim of superior organizational depth… or maybe the Blues just decided that he wasn’t good enough.
Rattie then signed with the Oilers as a free agent this past summer, and scored 43 points in 53 AHL games with Bakersfield. This is Rattie’s 2nd stint with the Oilers this season. He was held pointless in 2 games in February, and he has scored 7 points in 6 games playing alongside McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins since being called up again. The knock on Rattie has been his lack of footspeed. The common belief is that he is not a good enough skater to be an everyday NHL player.
Aberg was injured prior to the 2012 World Jrs, so he missed his opportunity to showcase himself in that tournament. That was an impressive gold-medal winning roster that featured the likes of Filip Forsberg, Mika Zibanejad, William Karlsson, Rickard Rakell, Victor Rask, John Klingberg, Oscar Klefbom, and Jonas Brodin. None of those players were even the best players on that team in that tournament. Max Friberg was 2nd in the tournament in scoring, and he’s playing in Sweden right now. That goes to show just how much talent was on that roster. It’s tough to know exactly where Aberg would’ve fit in on that team, but he had earned a spot on that roster alongside those current NHL stars. Prior to this year, Aberg spent 3 years in the AHL. He scored 52 points in 56 games last season with Milwaukee. He got a shot with the Predators during last year’s playoffs due to injuries, and he scored the game-winning goal in game 5 of the Western Conference Final against Anaheim. He also scored a ridiculous goal against Pittsburgh in game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
This year, he got 6 points in 4 games in the AHL, then was called up to Nashville where he got 8 points in 38 games. His production wasn’t great in Nashville. Then teammate PK Subban said that Aberg had the talent to play with Nashville all the time, but was a victim of the team’s enviable depth. So he got traded to Edmonton at the deadline this year, and got an assist in his first game. He got an opportunity to play on McDavid’s wing for 3 games and was held to 1 assist. He was taken off of that line and scratched for a couple of games for “reasons other than his play” according to coach McLellan. Since being placed on Draisaitl’s wing after being scratched, he has 6 points in 4 games. His Oilers totals are 8 points in 12 games. The knock on him has been his lack of consistency.
The Oilers are hoping that one of or both of these players can make the jump to become productive NHL players. I had a look at some players that have made the jump from the AHL to a competitive team’s top 6 forward group in rapid fashion over the last few seasons. I have listed their points per game production in the AHL and in their first full NHL seasons. The “Drop” number represents the difference in points per game between their last AHL year and their first NHL year.
AHL- 1.27 ppg (2016-17)
NHL- 0.83 (2016-17)
Drop- 0.44 ppg
AHL- 1.06 (2015-16)
NHL- 0.76 (2016-17)
Drop- 0.3 ppg
AHL- 1.05 (2012-13)
NHL- 0.61 (2013-14)
Drop- 0.44 ppg
AHL- 1.2 (2015-16)
NHL- 0.87 (2016-17)
Average Drop- 0.38
For comparison’s sake:
AHL- 0.81 (2017-18)
AHL- 0.93 (2016-17)
All of the comparable players had better AHL numbers than both of Rattie and Aberg. All four of the other players mentioned were able to score over 1 point per game during a season in the AHL. Rattie has not done that, and Aberg had 6 points in 4 AHL games earlier this season, which is not statistically relevant. It’s hard to think that either player will see the same type of breakout success in the NHL that the other 4 saw based on their AHL production. If we assume that Rattie and Aberg would be subject to the average drop for this group of 0.38 ppg, Rattie would get 0.43 ppg (35 points) while Aberg would get 0.55 ppg (45 points) in the NHL over the course of a full season next year.
So who is better?
Rattie has more pedigree based on his ridiculous junior numbers. He’s showing signs that he can produce at the NHL level right now (albeit in a very small sample size playing with the best player in the game). He has been physical, which is a positive thing. He won’t ever win a Selke Trophy, but he hasn’t looked awful in his own end either. He’s not a great skater; but neither was Ryan Smyth, and he is royalty in Edmonton. At 25 years old, Rattie is quickly running out of time to establish himself as an everyday NHL player.
Aberg appears to be more polished than Rattie. He was more productive than Rattie in the AHL. He is fast, and he is really good defensively. He is able to quickly identify passing lanes and he is able to fill those lanes. He uses his speed to get in on the fore-check. He manages the puck well in the neutral zone. His goal against LA on Saturday night was an example of how good his hands are. He has a hard shot as well, but he hasn’t been able to get it off consistently. He appears to have a bit of chemistry with Draisaitl, as 6 points in 4 games together would indicate. Even though the results weren’t there in the 3 games they played together, I didn’t mind Aberg with McDavid either because of what he can do on the fore-check and because of his shot.
Right now, I’d say that Aberg is the better player overall. I think he will be a good fit on the 2nd or 3rd line with the Oilers next year. For $650k, he will bring the Oilers a lot of value.
Going into next season, the Oilers currently have Aberg, Puljujarvi, Kassian, and Yamamoto under contracts as potential right wingers. It’s a talented group. The problem is that no one has proven themselves to be a top-line winger yet. Puljujarvi has developed chemistry with Strome on the 3rd line after being put there to limit his minutes due to reported fatigue. Yamamoto is having a great year in junior, but no one knows if he will be ready to make the roster next year. It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to sign Rattie to another one-year contract to see if he can play with McDavid long-term, which would allow Yamamoto to not be rushed into the NHL needlessly.