Islanders: The Case For Sebastian Aho In 2021
By Matt O'Leary
The New York Islanders haven’t had Sebastian Aho play at the NHL level in over two years. He should get a shot in 2021.
Sebastian Aho making the NHL in his draft year and playing for the Islanders after being selected in the fifth round is rare. In 2017-2018, Aho played 22 games for the Islanders with four points to his name.
If you remember, 2017-2018 was a tough year for the Isles defense under Doug Weight and there were a few injuries that yielded a call-up for the young defensive prospect.
Since that season, he hasn’t played in the NHL. He spent the entirety of 2018-2019 in the AHL and had himself a productive 46 point season with Bridgeport. Aho followed that up this past year with 30 points in 49 games in the A again.
He made the bubble roster but didn’t get any playoff action but we might see that change in 2021 with the Islanders. Aho seems like the perfect fit for the seventh defenseman.
Heading into the 2021 season, the Islanders have Adam Pelech and Nick Leddy on the left side and Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Noah Dobson, and Johnny Boychuk on the right. The assumption is that Boychuk would be the odd man out on the right.
In all likelihood, if the Isles can’t deal him in a trade they will bury part of his $6 million cap hit in the minors. Another assumption is that Andy Greene will be back for the third pair, which seems pretty likely.
If that’s the case, they’ll need a seventh d-man and Aho seems like the perfect fit. Now, at age 24, he seems to have outgrown the AHL. I don’t know how much is left for him to accomplish at that level you’re better off using his cheap cap hit to serve an NHL role.
Sure, there’s a chance that he’s only somehow who can play at a high level in the AHL and not much else, which is fine, but you don’t know that yet based on a 22 game sample.
Who knows, perhaps he can prove enough in a limited role this year in the NHL to make Lou Lamoriello feel comfortable about him playing on the left side more regularly in 2021-2022. Even if the Isles bring back Andy Greene he’s not a long-term solution so they’re going to need to find some fresh bodies somewhere.
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Look for Sebastian Aho to get a legit look in training camp, whenever that may be, and don’t be surprised if he’s on the opening night roster.