— Hockeysverige.se (@hockeysverige) July 4, 2017
Fifth round pick Sebastian Aho has signed an entry-level contract with the New York Islanders.
Aho, 21, was selected by the Isles in the fifth round of the 2017 lottery draft, after going undrafted in the previous two events. He was skipped over 138 times in this year’s draft alone before Garth Snow and his staff made him their third pick.
It’s been a struggle to explain why Aho hasn’t been given a shot before. It’s surprising enough that it’s prompted numerous writers to wonder exactly why that is. Most point to his size: at 5’10”, 165 pounds, the only comparable defenseman in the entire league is Jared Spurgeon. There simply isn’t large enough of a sample size to believe that he’ll make it in the NHL.
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But that idea — that his size will prevent him from making it at the highest level — will be put to the test this season. According to multiple reports, the Islanders have signed Aho to an entry-level contract. He’ll most likely start the season in Bridgeport.
This should come as a shock… but it doesn’t really. While giving an ELC to a recently drafted fifth rounder isn’t exactly the norm, Aho isn’t exactly what people call a normal player. He’s been draft eligible for a couple of seasons, and at the ripe age of 21, he’s got a chance to compete in the AHL with guys his own age.
After last season, Aho inked a three-year contract extension with Skellefteå of the Swedish Hockey League. But after notching 30 points in 50 games — finishing second among defensemen with 10 goals — Aho couldn’t resist a chance to overseas.
Islanders European scout Veli-Pekka Kautonen told Expressen that “he’s definitely a player who can start the season in Bridgeport this autumn.” A couple of scouts had pegged Aho as the most NHL-ready blueliner in the entire draft.
However, there’s still a reason that 30 other teams (with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights) skipped over him in not only this draft, but the two proceeding it. There are legitimate concerns about his size, and his stint in Bridgeport — and ideally, Brooklyn — is simply a chance for the Isles to further evaluate his potential.
Still, it’s encouraging that he’s finally getting a chance to live out his dream. For a kid who didn’t find out he was drafted until his agent called, this is a pretty big step.
“I found out when my agent called,” he said. “I was just happy. It feels great to finally get to go to the final (sic).
“It feels awesome.”
The only better feeling, for both Aho and the Islanders, would be for this resilient 5’10” defenseman to prove his doubters wrong and become a force to be reckoned with at the game’s highest level.
Only time will tell.