SAN JOSE - Sebastian Aho's first NHL All-Star experience is one to remember.
The 21-year-old Carolina Hurricanes forward captured the 2019 NHL All-Star Game title with the Metropolitan Division, which topped the Atlantic Division, 7-4, and doubled up the Central Division, 10-5, in the 3-on-3 tournament to take home the $1 million cash prize.
"It was a great weekend. Lots of new faces and great guys," he said. "It was a lot of fun."
Aho, who skated on a line with Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux and Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, recorded three points, including two goals and one assist, in the two 20-minute, 3-on-3 contests.
"They're elite players in this league," Aho said of his linemates. "It was really fun. They're really great off-ice, too."
One of the most memorable moments for Aho came in the title game, when he scored on countryman Pekka Rinne on a breakaway.
At dinner the night prior, Aho told Rinne he'd go five-hole on him if he had the opportunity. So, he tried that. Twice. Rinne made the save both times.
Then, on the breakaway, Aho settled the puck and roofed a shot glove side to stretch the Metro's lead to 7-3 late in the title game.
Video: MET@CEN: Aho scores on breakaway to extend lead
"I really wanted to score on him," Aho said. "I wanted to go five-hole, but he knew I was going to go there, so I went top cheese."
Aho netted the Metropolitan Division's sixth goal in the first game when he slid into the slot and snapped a pass from Giroux past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
"I was for sure he was going to score that and put it in," Aho said of Giroux's breakaway attempt, which was stopped. Aho then picked his spot and skated untouched into the slot to score. "It ended up pretty good."
Video: MET@ATL: Aho snaps Giroux's feed past Howard
Though he got prior tips and pointers from Justin Faulk, a Metropolitan Division All-Star champion himself, Aho said he wasn't sure what to expect in the 3-on-3 tournament, and it took him a period to settle in to the flow of the game.
"Maybe the first game, second period I was starting to feel it. I wasn't thinking that much anymore. My first period, I was just looking like, 'What's going to happen?'" he said. "You can't take it so serious out there, but obviously you want to win when you get the chance."
And win the Metropolitan Division did for the second time in three years in this All-Star format.
Now, what to do with the winnings?
"I don't know yet," Aho said. "[The Finns] all did pretty good. I guess I have to take them out to dinner tonight."
The All-Star title caps off a memorable first experience for Aho, another addition to his ever-growing resume of accomplishments in just his third season in the NHL.
This Star is shining bright, for sure.
"Just the whole experience being here with the best players," Aho said of what he takes away from this weekend in San Jose. "To see they are really nice guys, all of them, and just hang out here."