Coming to the Carolina Hurricanes with much fanfare, Sebastian Aho is already becoming an important part of his team.
Last season was an incredible one for young Sebastian Aho. The Finn came in 2nd in the Liiga MVP voting, scoring at a point per game pace for his club Karpat. On in the international stage, he represented his country twice, at the World Junior Championships and at the World Championships. In both instances, he impressed as a key cog for Finland’s offense.
Even as the #AhoHypeTrain reached peak speed, questions still surrounded the 19 year old as he was starting his first professional season in North America. Is he too small for the NHL? Will he be productive? Will he even make the team? Aho had to answer all these questions, and answer them he has.
Almost 30 games into his National Hockey League career and Sebastian Aho looks like he has played 300 games. Maybe what’s stood out the most is his intelligence on the ice. He was always touted as a smart player, but no one was really aware until they saw him lace up his skates for Carolina.
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When general manager Ron Francis took over the Canes, he emphasized the importance of both skating and hockey IQ. Sebastian Aho has proven he fits this bill to a tee. Despite playing on smaller ice, not speaking his native language, and learning a new system, Aho has been able to come into the team and be a difference maker. He is so smart to know the right play and skates well enough to make that play happen.
Aho has also exuded a certain level of professionalism that is pretty rare amongst players his age. Many around the organization have applauded the teenager’s preparation, both physically and mentally. He isn’t afraid to take hits and skate into the dirty areas to draw penalties. This was especially evident against Vancouver on Tuesday. From puck drop till the final horn, no Hurricane skated as well as Aho for the whole 60 minutes, even when the rest of the team had no legs.
His quick transition to North America has helped to balance out Carolina’s scoring. Aho, along with fellow Finn Teuvo Teravainen, has been able to step in and provide fairly decent secondary scoring. In fact, Aho ranks 4th on the Hurricanes in points with 14. That is a higher total than Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, and the aforementioned Teravainen. Those guys should normally be helping a rookie provide offense, but instead Aho has been able to match and even surpass his teammates.
At the moment, the NHL is blessed with some incredible young talent. Quietly, Aho is finding a place amongst this group. The Finn currently sits 9th in rookie scoring and actually is the 2nd best rookie at shot attempts at 5v5.
Aho is even spearheading the Finnish youth movement in the NHL. Although not out scoring his Finland teammate Patrik Laine, he is pacing his other rookies Mikko Rantanen and Jesse Puljujarvi. He already is important to the Hurricanes, but looks to be a major player for Finland for years to come.
All in all, Sebastian Aho has hit North American shores as advertised. The kid has an exceptional hockey mind and the skills to back it up. At his current rate, Aho should finish with somewhere between 35-40 points for his rookie season. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. Hey, Pavel Datsyuk had 35 points in his rookie year, so Aho might be off to a great start to his NHL career.