Over the past few weeks, we’ve been counting down the top 25 under 25 in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization. Finally we’ve reached No. 1, and it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone: it’s Sebastian Aho.
Aho is a superstar for the Hurricanes, a player quickly climbing up the NHL ranks as one of the best while still being just 23 years old. In his four-year NHL career, he has a top-10 finish in Hart Trophy voting (as well as a top-10 Calder finish his rookie year) and he’s just getting started.
Aho was a steal for the Canes back in the 2015 draft, a second-round selection who has out-performed the vast majority of guys picked ahead of him. He made his NHL debut in the Canes’ first game of the 2016-17 season, playing all 82 games of his rookie year. That season, he had 49 points as a teenager.
Sebastian Aho with his first career NHL goal. Teuvo Teravainen with the second assist. pic.twitter.com/oPGBpElNQ3— Hoop Informatics (@HoopInformatics) November 13, 2016
Aho has followed his exceptional rookie season up with more of the same, setting a career high with 83 points in 2018-19 and a career best mark of 38 goals when the season ended early in 2019-20.
Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Aho is 30th in the NHL with 263 points. Among guys still under 25-years old, Aho ranks sixth behind Conor McDavid, David Pastrnak, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel. That’s some pretty good company.
For the Canes, Aho has been everything they could have ever asked for and more. He burst onto the scene and immediately started scoring, and he’s only gotten better. He made the move to center after two years, and his numbers only went up.
He offers it all. He’s as skilled a player as the Canes have, and his ability to finish in front of the net is remarkable. See below.
Sebastian Aho. WOOOOW. Enjoy every angle of this highlight-reel goal from Aho, who strips the puck from Trouba and walks DeAngelo for a goal that puts the Hurricanes up 3-1 on the Rangers in game three. pic.twitter.com/YfGH9VeYVm— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) August 5, 2020
Apart from that, Aho is blazing fast and can skate with the best of them. Time after time it’s Aho’s ability to cut through defense and flat-out fly that creates opportunities for the Canes.
Sebastian Aho with a great end-to-end rush during a delayed penalty sequence that almost netted Carolina their first goal in game two. pic.twitter.com/zi9wepMwCM— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) August 14, 2020
He can pass the puck, too. He had 53 assists in 2018-19. His pace was down quite a bit in 2019-20, but his goal scoring was at an all-time high and there’s only so many assists to go around when you’re playing on a line with Teuvo Teravainen.
What a pass. What a snipe. Aho to Faulk, 1-0 Hurricanes in Buffalo. pic.twitter.com/RO45ytAjIK— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) February 8, 2019
Simply put, Aho is becoming an NHL superstar. He was an All-Star in 2019. He’s been firmly planted on league leaderboards over the past couple seasons, finishing tied for sixth in goals this past season.
He’s been the best player on a Hurricanes team that has made the postseason two years in a row, and he’s been the cornerstone of a Carolina rebuild that is now fully flourishing.
His potential and ceiling is off the charts. There’s no reason to believe that Aho won’t be a perennial All-Star moving forward, someone who will be a staple in the NHL’s top-10 goal scorers and could have a season or two where he’s in a legitimate conversation for the Hart.
As far as where he stands with the Hurricanes, there are a lot of franchise records that Aho could chase down. Aho was on pace to finish the 2019-20 season with 46 goals, which would have broken Eric Staal’s team record of 45 in a season (since the Canes moved to Raleigh).
If you take a look across the NHL, there aren’t many teams who have a top 25 under 25 list as impressive as the Hurricanes. Carolina is set for the future, while competing in the present, and Aho is as much a part of that as anyone.
Aho has done so much during his time with the Canes, that it’s really hard to believe that he is still just 23.