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Aho Prepares to Make NHL Debut with Hurricanes

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Along with the rest of the hockey world, Sebastian Aho watched in amazement as rookie forward Auston Matthews scored four goals in his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now it's Aho's turn to make his NHL debut tonight with the Carolina Hurricanes - and his teammates made known what they'd like to see.

"We expect five goals!" the room teased the 19-year-old winger. Aho could only smile.

Aho, a second-round draft pick of the Hurricanes from a year ago, will make his first regular season appearance with the club tonight in Winnipeg, skating on a line with Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm.

"Of course it's a pretty big thing," the soft-spoken Aho said. "This is what I have been waiting for, to play for the Canes."

Aho noted that fellow Finn Jesse Puljujarvi scored in his NHL debut on Wednesday night with the Oilers. Another familiar Finn, Patrik Laine, will share the same ice with Aho tonight. The three were a force at the 2016 World Junior Championship and led Finland to a gold medal.

"It's Winnipeg against Carolina, not Laine vs. Aho," Aho said, downplaying the match-up. "It's nice to play against him, but it's not just the two of us."

Even still, it will be a storyline to track in tonight's match. Asked what Laine's biggest asset was, Aho responded: "His shot."

The same could potentially be said of Aho, who also possesses a creative offensive mind and slick puck-handling skills. With Teravainen and Lindholm, the Hurricanes could have the makings of a dazzling, entertaining trio of forwards that will be threatening five-on-five and potentially lethal on the power play.

"I feel better and better every day," Aho said of how his game has progressed through the World Cup and training camp, leading up to puck drop tonight. "I just try to focus on our game and our system."

The stage is set for the Hurricanes' season opener in Winnipeg on Thursday night, and Aho will make his long-awaited debut.

"I want to try to have fun and play well," Aho said.

Easy enough, right?

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