It's become a rare instance in today's NHL that a defenseman plays on his off-side. Last night against the Arizona Coyotes, after NY Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield was ruled out with a lower-body injury, Samuel Bolduc was inserted into the lineup, paired with Sebastian Aho. A left-handed defenseman, Aho switched over to the right side to fill Mayfield's position.
In a game where all 19 on the ice for the Islanders played well, Aho stood out as one of the most impressive.
Not only assertive in the defensive zone, where the Islanders maintained a one-goal lead for most of the night, Aho also stepped up offensively as the Isles outshot the Coyotes 34-14 for the night. Finishing with five shots on goal, Aho finished with the team's most shots, along with fellow defenseman Noah Dobson, despite playing eight fewer minutes.
The Islanders made it a point of emphasis to get the puck to the net often, as the team's lack of finishing hurt them for most of last season. Though Aho didn't find the back of the net, he created rebounds and opportunities for his forwards. Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka played an outstanding game and was the only thing standing between Aho and a phenomenal game.
Not just visually but also analytically, Aho was one of the Isles' top performers. According to Hockey Stat Cards on X, Aho was the Isles' best player on the night, posting a Game Score Composition of 2.0, compared to the team's next best, Kyle Palmieri, who posted a number just over 1.5.
Coming into the season, Aho's position within the lineup was not guaranteed, with Bolduc breathing down his neck. Through training camp and pre-season, Aho once again established his position in the team, and logged 16:23 of ice time last night compared to Bolduc's 9:19.
The entire team seems to be buying into the system through two games, but with Aho stepping up in what was considered the sixth defenseman spot, questions of whether the team needs to upgrade may soon be dismissed if he continues down this path.