RALEIGH, N.C. – Who is Sebastian Aho?
That’s what many were wondering when the Carolina Hurricanes made the Finnish right winger their second pick, 35th overall, in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. on Saturday.
For some, he was confused for another Sebastian Aho, a Swede who was also a prospective draft pick.
However, the Aho that Carolina selected held very distinct credentials that they were happy to have available to develop and work with immediately.
“We walked out of here with Noah Hanifin and a real good prospect in the second round as well,” Hurricanes director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald said.
“With all the other players we’re willing to wait on, no one has to step in and contribute anything right away. We want them to develop, evolve and become better players.”
However, in Aho’s case, his time to be signed to a pro contract could come more quickly for as he already possesses pro playing experience with men, completing this past season with Karpat in the Finnish Elite League.
Jouni Nieminen, a Finnish freelance hockey writer who resides in Edmonton, Alberta and submits for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper and its online site provided some insight on Aho via online communication on Saturday.
“He is the kid who scored the big goal to win (the) Finnish League Championship,” Niemenin wrote.
“OT goal. That is really something at 17 years of age.”
Sure, scoring a title-winning goal in your country’s top league is quite an accomplishment, but what more was there about this player that would make him Carolina’s second pick.
It was his character.
That’s what both MacDonald and Nieminin alluded to when speaking about what the youngster did right after scoring that title-winning goal.
“He flew early next morning to Switzerland and played the next day versus USA in the U18 final,” Nieminin continued.
“As underage kid he couldn’t party with men anyway.”
With MacDonald indicating what the Hurricanes scouts saw in him, Nieminin concurred and added a few more of his observations to consider to watch for when the young Finn eventually steps onto the ice in Raleigh.
“A good offensive player. Physically immature due to young age, not much strength. I didn’t expect such high pick. He has lots of skill, was playing more and more towards the end of Finnish playoffs. Moves well, very good hockey sense. This makes me think of Teuvo Teräväinen. I think Teuvo is a lot further in his development though.”
Not a bad comparison to make to another young Finn who just won his first Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary or new for the Hurricanes if Aho turns pro sooner than later, even at a young age.
If he is mature enough to deal with pro hockey players in Finland, he could be able to adjust and become a pro in the NHL just as quickly.
Only time will tell.
Just it has for Hurricanes Swedish forward Elias Lindholm who possessed similar European pro league experience.
To date, he’s transitioned fairly well into becoming an up-and-coming dynamic young NHLer after being selected as Carolina’s top pick, fifth overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
When asked, MacDonald said Aho could be the closest to becoming a professional within the organization.
“The fact that he’s already professional hockey in Finland, and he’s already done very well at that. I think you have to give him the edge as the closest guy to be able to do something.”