Islanders: Can Sebastian Aho take that spot on the blueline for 2021-22?
Until Lou Lamoriello announces something regarding the gap on the New York Islanders blueline I’m going to be totally consumed with trying to sort out who will fill Nick Leddy’s role.
But what if we’re too hung up on finding a direct replacement for Leddy? Like, a 1:1 replacement? A veteran puck mover with an established NHL track record of being a top-four guy.
Because to be blunt, I don’t know if that’s necessarily possible considering the Islanders cap and how they don’t want to create a new gap to fill another by trading a roster player. So maybe they look internally to fill the void on the blueline?
Can Sebastian Aho make the New York Islanders in 2021-22?
And look, I know, Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello aren’t necessarily rookie guys. It’s not to say they have no time for rookies but Lou holds a “don’t rush them” approach to rookies while Barry Trotz has a very short leash when it comes to youngsters (not that that’s a bad thing).
But what about a “kid” who’s been “holding the clipboard” for the past year+? I’m talking about Sebastian Aho.
The 2017 fifth-round pick spent 95% of the season on the Islanders taxi squad and only saw ice time in mid-march with three games and averaged 13:21 TOI in those three outings. He also managed four shots a goal and a helper. And what a goal it was. Look at this effort off the rush where Aho snipes one over Hart and under the bar.
Carrying a $725,000 cap hit certainly helps his case with the Islanders needing all the cap space they can create.
And look, it doesn’t mean he has to step in and play Nick Leddy minutes in 2021-22. But can Aho give the Islanders 16-18 minutes every night? Yeah, no doubt. Can he be a serviceable player in those minutes? Again, no doubt.
Remember, Barry has gone on record to state that he believes Aho moves the puck well and is a smart player.
It’s not to say Aho will play on the Islanders blueline from puck drop to the final whistle, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Lou and Barry make it happen. Again, this, now 25-year-old, has been on the margins of this roster for a while. Both Lou and Barry have brought him along with the team every chance they got. They must like something about his game. Now that there’s an opening it might be Aho’s time.