Sebastian Aho 2021-22 By the Numbers
- Age: 24
- NHL Seasons: 6
- Scoring: 37 goals, 44 assists, 81 points in 79 games
- Playoff Scoring: 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points in 14 games
- Advanced Statistics: 54.22 CF%, 56.04% HDCF%, 53.52 xGF%, 55.91 GF%
- Average TOI: 14:05 ES, 2:58 PP, 1:54 SH
- Contact Status: 2 years left on contract, $8,460,250 AAV, UFA after 2023-24
It’s fitting that this About Last Season lands in the early days of Carolina Hurricanes prospect development camp.
A second-round pick all the way back in 2015, Sebastian Aho made a quick rise through the organizational depth chart and now finds himself entering his age-25 season with three 30+ goal seasons and two 80+ point seasons in the NHL.
He added to both of those career achievements this past season, wherein he was just one goal away from matching his career-high and finished north of a point per game.
You can use many words to describe Aho as a player, but the one word that immediately comes to mind is “consistent.” Over the last four seasons, he has been just above a point per game in three of them. In the one season he failed to hit a point per game, the shortened 2019-20 season, Aho had his career-high 38 points, which was the sixth-most in the league that year.
Offensively, Aho’s 5-on-5 production rates were almost identical to what he did in the 56-game 2021 season. However, an area where he did take a substantial leap was with his work on the power play. He scored a career-high 13 power-play goals, a number that ranked 14th in the NHL among all skaters.
Aho was one of just six NHL players to score 35+ goals, 10+ power play goals, and at least one short-handed goal in 2021-22. Leon Draisaitl, Chris Kreider, Alex Ovechkin, Elias Lindholm, and Trace Thompson were the only other players who did that.
That speaks in a very minor way to Aho’s work in all situations, but it doesn’t do enough talking.
Again, Aho was outstanding in both special teams departments. I touched on his career year on the power play, and while he didn’t net 3+ short-handed goals as he had in the three prior seasons (though he did have a couple of shorthanded assists), he was still a pivotal force on Carolina’s outstanding regular season penalty kill.
Carolina’s well-known power kill went strong again last season, and Aho was the leader of that charge. He led all Canes forwards in one-ice shot attempts for, shots for, high-danger shot attempts for, and expected goals for on the penalty kill.
In terms of generating offense on the PK, he was quite good but not as electric as in years past. His focus on tight defensive zone play more than made up for that, though.
Aho’s regular-season contributions are what you expect them to be, but now the focus needs to be placed in the direction of the playoffs. Going back to his days as a junior-aged player in the top league in Finland, he’s never been a player who shies away from the biggest moments.
That said, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me there isn’t more in the tank for Aho in the postseason.
After the Hurricanes took a 2-0 series lead against the New York Rangers, Aho failed to find the back of the net and racked up just three assists in the final five games, in which Carolina went 1-4 and saw their season reach its abrupt end. When he was asked about his health in the postseason, he said without any hesitation that he was fully healthy.
He scored a goal in just three of the Hurricanes’ 14 playoff games. Perhaps non-coincidentally, the Canes went 3-0 in those games. And if you know Carolina’s home and road playoff records, you can deduce that he didn’t find the back of the net on the road.
Clearly, Aho isn’t the reason why the Hurricanes were again forced to go back to the disappointment-soaked drawing board, but when these series get more challenging and every single shift has the potential to change the course of your entire season, Aho has to be a bigger factor.
The Hurricanes will not achieve their ultimate goal with Aho and the rest of the team’s core of young star players waning while their counterparts on other clubs are seizing the opportunity at hand. One very legitimate criticism of this team from last season is that when they had an opportunity to put their foot down and close out the important games, they often lacked the desperation that other teams had.
These are all parts of the growing pains that come with a team trying to rise to the top of a league and an annual playoff bracket that comes ripe with parody and endless variables.
Aho is the type of player who will hold onto these heartbreaking losses and use them as motivation to take the next step in his career, which is, in my estimation, dominating a playoff series.
Only time will tell how that will manifest itself, but if his first six years in the league are any indication, it’s not wise to doubt Sebastian Aho - the player and the person.
Hopefully, those next steps come in the next two seasons because, after 2023-24, Aho is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and literally anything could happen.
How would you grade Sebastian Aho’s 2021-22 season?
This poll is closed
A - Outstanding Performance
B - Above Average Performance
C - Average Performance
D - Below Average Performance
F - Significantly Below Average Performance