Carolina Hurricanes: Making a Calder Trophy Case for Sebastian Aho


Already a key piece of the Carolina Hurricanes, Sebastian Aho is just starting to turn heads in the NHL and is deserved of being in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

The hype train left the station at last year’s World Juniors, gained speed this summer, and has been rolling ever since. However, it had never reached its highest level until last night. Against the Flyers, Sebastian Aho led the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-1 victory backed by his first career hat trick. He added an assist as well to cap off the best night of his very young NHL career so far.

Besides the fact he is 19-year-old scoring a hat trick in the NHL, it was the nature of the goals that are drawing the attention. His first was a beautiful stickhandling drive to the net, his second involved a blue line steal, a give and go with a one-timer, and his third was a snipe on the power play. These weren’t lucky bounces that found their way to Aho, but chances created and finished by a player with incredible talent.

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Aho’s dominating performance has caught the rest of the league’s eye as well. made Aho one of their three stars of the night. This new spotlight put on the rookie begs the question, can Sebastian Aho win the Calder Memorial Trophy for the league’s top rookie?

It is going to be tough with competition like Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews, both of whom are generational talents for their respective countries and were both at the NHL All-Star Weekend. Even with guys like that vying for the honors, it would be foolish to overlook Aho and here is why.

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Currently, Aho is 3rd in rookie goal scoring at 15 goals, trailing both Laine and Matthews is goals, who are both at 23. The outlook of those stats changes when you consider Aho’s first tally was November 12th. Since that point, Aho is actually 2nd in rookie goal scoring behind Matthews who has 17 from that same date. Aho has three more goals than his former line mate Patrik Laine over that time frame.

It should also be noted that Aho is comparing very favorably to other players who were once in the Calder conversation in recent seasons. Last season as a rookie, Jack Eichel scored 56 points for the Sabres. At his current pace, Aho will get 50. In 2013-14, then rookie Nathan MacKinnon registered 24 goals en route to his Calder Trophy. Right now Aho is projecting to score more goals than MacKinnon did in his first season. The same can be said for Aho versus Eichel.

On Carolina, Aho is still the 3rd leading scorer, but he is catching up on Victor Rask incredibly quickly. It seems like a matter of when, not if, he joins Jeff Skinner on the top of the Canes score sheet. Aho also has the distinction of being the youngest player in franchise history to record a hat trick. He is also the first rookie to do so since Erik Cole did in 2001.

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It is very much an uphill battle for Aho to really challenge for the Calder. At the same time, it would really be foolish to leave him out of the conversation. Last night’s performance should have helped him solidify his place in the Calder shortlist. You don’t often see a 4 point night that includes a hat trick, and it’s rarer to see one from a teenaged rookie. Hopefully, people around the NHL will start to tune it to watch this kid, because he has shown he is as much a part of the league’s youth revolution as any other young phenom.