Now quickly approaching the halfway point of Sebastian Aho’s rookie season, here are a few random thoughts based on watching him for 31 games.
By far, his favorite place to operate is entering the offensive zone on the right side with enough speed that he can either continue to carry wide or more likely pull up and look for a pasing lane to the middle. I do not have time to do a formal tally, but a good number of his best playmaking efforts have come from exactly that position on the ice including his recent assist on a Justin Faulk goal and also 1 that saw him find Teuvo Tervainen who then found Noah Hanifin.
Smarts as advertised
I wrote about it in more detail in the game recap from Friday, but from “his office” and also other places, he has been exactly as advertised in terms of making heady plays. He has the knack for making plays to move defenders where he needs them to be to open up passing lanes. I think that ability to create passing lanes is the single biggest skill that separates elite playmakers from reasonably skilled run of the mill offensive players who collect assists at an average or slightly above average rate.
Need to spend more time where goals happen
He could take a lesson from Jeff Skinner in this regard. To boost his goal scoring, Aho will need to make a concerted effort to spend more time with and without the puck where goals happen (basically inside the face-off circles). Especially with the puck on his stick, e has a tendency to want to play outside where he has space. I do not consider this a major problem. He is young at 19 years old. He is an NHL rookie still adjusting to the league. And he is also making the transition from bigger European rinks where using the extra space is a big part of the game. That said, Aho will need to adapt a bit and find more comfort in the dirty areas in front of the net.
With a reasonable run of points, Aho has quietly climbed to third overall on the Carolina Hurricanes in scoring with 16 points in 31 games. He leads a pack that includes current (mostly) line mates Teuvo Teravainen and Lee Stempniak who sit below the Skinner/Rask do that holds both of the top 2 slots. His scoring pace is a fairly modest 42 points, but it is still impressive considering he has really been a bit under the radar with a nice play here and there but nothing I would call a true hot streak.
After watching him for more than 2 months, if I had to name a Canes comparison, it would be Ray Whitney. Whitney was a similarly undersized wing who could score goals but leaned playmaking over finishing in terms of style of play. Whitney also possessed the same ability to buy time, get defenders to move and make other creative plays to create scoring opportunities for line mates out of situations where not much seemed to be there.
What say you Canes fans?
What are your early impressions of Sebastian Aho?
What are his greatest strengths?
What areas do you see for improvement?