Carolina Hurricanes: Is Sebastian Aho the face of the franchise?

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 22: Sebastian Aho
RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 22: Sebastian Aho /

The 2017-18 NHL season is winding down, with only 33 games remaining for the Carolina Hurricanes. Can Sebastian Aho return strong from his injuries now?

The injury to Carolina Hurricanes star left winger Sebastian Aho put the team at odds of late. Carolina is making a legitimate mid-season case to break their playoff drought before it reaches nearly a decade. However, Aho is needed to prevent the playoff drought from continuing.

As a second round pick of the Canes, 35th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Aho was definitely a value find. Among all second round picks in 2015, Aho is performing head and shoulders above the rest. His raw talent level is showing through even clearer this season than it was last.

After a rookie season where he posted 24 goals and 49 points, Aho finished in the top 10 in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy. That slotted him among young stars like Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, and Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins (who also won the 2017 Stanley Cup as the starting goalie).

Carolina had an easy task in naming their best offensive producer of the past seven seasons their first team captain since Eric Staal departed Raleigh. Jeff Skinner is really the only player that could be considered the face of the Canes franchise in recent years, at least before Aho arrived in town.

While Skinner set a career mark of 37 goals last season, he is not close to that same pace this time around. Meanwhile, Aho is the youngest top six forward for the Canes, and also the leader in points per game at 0.82. He’s got 37 points through 45 games, as only a nasty injury caused him to miss any games over the past two seasons.

A nasty hit from Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano handed Aho a concussion and lower-body injury. The four games the Canes have played since are the only ones missed by Aho over the past two seasons. His speed, work ethic, scoring touch, playmaking ability, and unlimited offensive potential are the main reasons the Canes should build around him from here on out.

Some trade rumors going around where other teams across the league are saying Aho is a good trade target should not be reality for the Canes. He’s too valuable than most other teams would be willing to offer in return too. A bright future for the Canes offense starts with Aho.

Head coach Bill Peters, and general manager Ron Francis, struck gold in the first line trio between Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Jordan Staal. Despite Aho’s recent injury, all three players are among the top four scorers for the Canes. That is, if you count Justin Williams and Skinner’s 31 points as tied for third.

Next: 3 reasons Aho will catch fire when he returns

Teravainen overtook Aho for the team lead in points in Carolina’s 6-5 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. But, it’s likely that Aho returns to the lineup in the Jan. 30 battle against the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena. It’d be his first action since his injury in that 4-1 loss to the Flames.