The Carolina Hurricanes have not reached the playoffs in quite some time. That being said, fans have much to be optimistic about. This season has had many ups and downs as Carolina tries to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09. Carolina was a point away from a wild card spot before a five game skid to close the first half.
Sebastian Aho: A Star in the Making
The Hurricanes have went 3-0 after the break, cut still have work to do before they can be considered a contender again. The Hurricanes are a very young team consisting of many promising players. Lately, Sebastian Aho has really come onto the scene. Aho is a large part of why Carolina has won their last three games. In his last three games, Aho has racked up five points, including his first career hat trick. Aho is only a teenager and scored just three goals through his first 25 NHL games. In his last 25 games Aho has scored 13 goals and is now third among rookies in goals.
In recognition of his hard work, Aho was named the NHL first star of the week. He joined Jeff Skinner as the only other Hurricane to win that award this season. What aids young Aho is his superb hockey IQ. Aho is a very smart player and sees the ice very well. He has a great ability to get his teammates involved and always seems to be in the right spot on the ice. Aho is a multi-tool player and has many physical assets to compliment his superb IQ. He is a very strong skater who can control the puck through tight spaces, making him hard to defend one-on-one. He has also shown flashes of a great shot, a shot that has earned him time on the power play. He has also scored a few goals from outside the circles displaying his great shot.
Another thing that has bolstered Aho’s play is his relationship with Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen is a fellow Finn and is Aho’s mentor and friend, both on and off the ice. Teravainen provides Aho with a level of comfort, especially considering he is only a teenager and far away from home. It is nice to have someone to relate to and help to show you the ropes when adjusting to both the NHL and a new country.
Aho is no where near his ceiling and could become a point-per-game player at this level. In order to improve, Aho needs to put on some weight and muscle in the off-season. To reach his potential, Aho needs time simply to grow into his body and adjust to the North American style of play. After bulking up, Aho will be able to shield the puck better and play a more physical style of defense. Aho also will be able to play more along the boards and win battles in all three zones, a necessity to being a star. Aho is very mature mentally and will continue to grow physically as he ages. The problem right now is that Aho has been the Hurricanes best player for the past few weeks. He is simply not ready to be a leader and take a team to the playoffs. Skinner needs to re-find his form, along with Jordan Staal, and add some veteran leadership. 2017 might not be the year for Carolina, but with Sebastian Aho leading this team, the future is bright.