Prospect Pulse: Akim Aliu

Posted by Kyle Kosior in Columns,Jets Prospect Pulse,Prospect Pulse,Prospect Pulse,Southeast Division,Winnipeg Jets on August 2, 2011 — 11 Comments

Of all the current or former Jets’ prospects, Akim Aliu just may be the most famous (infamous?). As a 16-year old, Aliu had a much publicized on-ice altercation with teammate Steve Downie, stemming from Aliu’s refusal to participate in rookie hazing. Sticks were swung, teeth were lost, both parties were suspended and Aliu was eventually traded to the London Knights, before being traded back to Sudbury.

The Nigerian-born Aliu, who spent some formative years in Ukraine and speaks fluent Russian (would have likely been best-friends with Bryzgalov), has bounced around the AHL and ECHL since turning pro in 2009-10, with less than stellar results. Perhaps more well known for some on (tussles in training camp) and off-ice altercations (bar fights, etc.), Aliu was included in the Chicago Blackhawks-Atlanta Thrashers blockbuster deal.

Hockey-wise, Aliu is your prototype power forward. Standing 6’3 and tipping the scales at 225, Aliu possesses a lethal wrist shot (accurate with a quick release) and doesn’t mind mixing it up. His mix up of talent, size and grit suggest that he should be a top-6 forward, but until he erases the perceptions around him (un-disciplined, etc.) it is unlikely he will become a go-to option on any team.

The downsides to his game are so-so puck handling skills and poor on-ice awareness. Additionally, Aliu is a good straight-ahead skater, but some question his agility. Question marks aside, Aliu’s potential is such that one hopes the fresh start with the Jets will be the tonic Aliu needs to overcome the question marks surrounding him. If he can concentrate on hockey, Aliu could be a devastating force on the Jets right-side. If not, I would imagine the Jets waste little time in sending Aliu away, as this type of player does not seem to mesh with the Jets’ long term plans. Aliu is signed to a two-way deal through the end of this season, so the time for a decision will come quickly.

I would envision him as most likely filling a 2nd (playing soft minutes against weak opposition) or 3rd line role (if he can learn defensive awareness) but I can’t see why he wouldn’t be able to ride shotgun on the 1st line or play a 4th line energy role. He has the potential to a crowd favourite at the MTS given his penchant for big hits, etc., but the downside to this player is also quite extreme in that he could become a very unwelcome distraction/disturbance in the dressing room.

It is my hope that the fresh start and fresh surroundings offer Aliu the chance to tell his own story. I would be remiss if I were to forever paint a kid in a negative light just because he resisted being hazed. Granted, things went downhill pretty quickly after the incident and Aliu hasn’t helped his cause since then, but he is still a very young player with good years ahead of him.

  • http://twitter.com/LukeMiguez Luke Miguez

    From what I’ve read, Aliu refused to participate in a hazing ritual and then Downie attacked him during a practice.  Aliu then defended himself again.

    He’s got a clean slate in Winnipeg at this point and I have no questions as to whether the Jets/IceCaps will give him a solid shot at making his name in this organization.  He certainly has the potential to be a talented power forward for us.

  • http://twitter.com/ICrichyp Richard Pollock

    From what I’ve heard his stock has dropped quite a bit recently.  Let’s hope the physical tools turn his career around. Based on the organization’s emphasis on character, I bet he is a one-strike and you are out candidate.

  • Kyle Kosior

    I am with Luke on this one. I cant begrudge a guy for defending himself.

    That said, his minor league numbers aren’t promising. Lets hope the light goes on for him this season.

  • http://twitter.com/zkatz87 Zak Katz

    I got to see a lot of Aliu when I worked with the London Knights. Back in Junior the guy was a man amongst boys and was capable of completely dominating anytime he stepped on the ice.

    It’s too bad he hasn’t been able to put it together at any of the pro levels, he was certainly gifted.

  • http://twitter.com/LukeMiguez Luke Miguez

    Well he seems to have produced good numbers in his stints in the ECHL, but hasn’t been able to produce at the AHL level thus far.  There’s potentially a number of potential reasons for that including a lack of on-ice minutes, which may have been a factor in the “veteran-first” Chicago Wolves organization.

    What may have happened last season is that Aliu was stuck with 3rd or 4th line checking minutes where he lacked offensive opportunities.  Later on during the season around January/February he was demoted down to Gwinnett where he proceeded to score 20 points in 16 games, and then was loaned out to Peoria where he produced 9 points in 16 games (equal to the first 43 games he spent with the Wolves that season).

    So it’s possible Aliu has offensive potential that’s being strangled by a lack of minutes at the AHL level right now.  It certainly suggests that he has the potential, but also that his recent production at this level is misleading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.bonnar Tim Bonnar

    While it would be nice to see him turn into a solid or dominant power forward, it seems lots of people have all but given up on him. There are legitimate questions about whether or not he will ever even play in the NHL.

    If he can become a 4th line energy guy with some scoring ability I will be happy. Anything more, I will be ecstatic. 

  • Kyle Kosior

    Good points all. Its always tough to find minutes played information for the AHL, so I can’t say what was happening there. Since he is signed for one more year, I would advocate putting him in a top-6 role and forcing the issue to see what exactly they have in Aliu. If he scores, great. If not, find another role or cut bait.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.bonnar Tim Bonnar

    Who would he displace to take a top six spot? Fehr, Wheeler or Antropov? Would one of them fall to the 4th line? Would they force Antropov back to center?

  • http://twitter.com/LukeMiguez Luke Miguez

    I believe Kyle’s referring to a top 6 AHL spot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.bonnar Tim Bonnar

    Ahhh… That makes more sense. 

    Logically, I thought it had to be, but the article seems to be talking about him playing for the Jets. I was confused.

  • http://twitter.com/LukeMiguez Luke Miguez

    He has the potential to play NHL roles in the future, but Kyle’s referring to forcing the issue with a high AHL spot this year.