Entering his fourth season with the NY Islanders, this season could make or break for Sebastian Aho's hopes to become an everyday player on the team's blue line and maybe even the NHL. Though it seems like Aho is still a prospect for the organization, the former fifth-round pick in 2017 is 26 years old and will turn 27 before the season's end.
In 2021-22, Aho saw his most ice-time as an NHL player. It took a COVID outbreak within the Islanders roster for Aho to see his first action of the season, appearing in 12 games between November and December. In that time, the Umea, Sweden native managed to find the score sheet only twice, totaling two points.
It was nearly two months later until Aho saw the ice again. From there on out, he appeared in 24 of the team's final 39 games. Used predominantly as a member of the third defensive pairing, Aho saw an improvement in his game seeing consistent ice time. Once Valentines Day passed, Aho scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his final 24 games.
On July 9th, Aho signed a two-year extension with the Islanders with an $825K AAV. Many expected a deal with Aho to be for only one season, but GM Lou Lamoriello and the front office put their faith in the Swedish blue liner to be able to step into the lineup when needed by offering two years.
Just over a month after signing his new two-year, $1.65 million contract, Aho has already put Lamoriello and the Islanders organization in a difficult position before even stepping on the ice. On August 13th, Aho was arrested for DUI in the Swedish town of Sundsvall. Aho claims he was at dinner with some friends the night before, where they had a few drinks. He was stopped at a random checkpoint the following morning around 10:30 am, where he blew a .03, which is .01 higher than the legal limit of .02 in Sweden.
"He had no idea he would still be over the limit by the next morning and felt 100%, but unfortunately, he made a mistake and he is very sorry!"- Claude Lemieux, Aho's agent
Lamoriello tends to have a short leash with players and their off-ice antics. We will wait to see if he issues a punishment of some sort to Aho once he returns to Long Island for training camp.
Once training camp begins, Aho will battle it out with Robin Salo and newly acquired Dennis Chowolski for the final spot on the blue line alongside Scott Mayfield. Former head coach, Barry Trotz, seemed to have preferred Aho over Salo down the final stretch of last season but new bench boss Lane Lambert may want to shake things up now that he's in charge.
If he becomes Mayfield's partner, the team will look for Aho to produce some offense and be a puck mover as Mayfield is limited in his offensive abilities and is more of a factor in his own zone. Aho is going to need a strong training camp and pre-season if he hopes to make the opening night roster. His issues this summer may have already put him at a disadvantage and will need to make up for it with his on-ice performance.