Akim Aliu is a former 2nd round draft pick (56th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks, who has had an up and down career to say the least. Standing 6 foot 4 inches and weighing in at 225lbs, Aliu is a big presence when out on the ice, and with that size comes decent offensive skills. His large frame places him firmly in power forward territory, and as his statistics show Aliu is more than willing to be a fighter when called upon.
Aliu's junior career is perhaps most well known for refusing to take part in a hazing ritual and then engaging in a fight with Steve Downie during a Windsor Spitfires practice.
Following the incident Aliu was traded from Windsor to the Sudbury Wolves where he posted 42 points in 53 games in 2006-07 with the team. However his lack of self control (104 PIM) led to a confrontation with head coach Mike Foligno, which then saw Aliu sent home late in the year before being brought back in a 3rd line role in the playoffs for Sudbury. Following Sudbury's loss in the OHL finals to the Plymouth Whalers Aliu would be selected 56th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, however he would be traded from Sudbury to the London Knights in the off season.
The 2007-08 season with the Knights would be the best of Aliu's junior career as he posted 28 goals and 33 assists in 60 games while collecting a 133 PIM. While playing for Dale Hunter in London, Aliu would see his role expanded greatly, even playing as a defensemen for periods throughout the season.
2008-09 saw Aliu traded from London (where he had posted 18 points in 16 games) back to Sudbury where he would post 26 points in 29 games while collecting 61 PIM.
After the 2009 season was over Aliu signed a 3 year deal with the Blackhawks and was assigned their AHL affiliate the Rockford Ice Hogs and would split time between Rockford and the ECHL's Toledo Walleye. In 48 AHL games Aliu posted just 17 points and 69 PIMs and in 13 ECHL games he put up 14 points.
In 2010-11 Aliu bounced between the ECHL and the AHL yet again, as he played for both Peoria and Chicago in the AHL and Gwinnet in the ECHL. He missed time with a broken hand that he sustained while being involved in a bar fight.
In the off season Aliu was traded to Calgary and was assigned to Abbotsford in the AHL to start the year, and in 42 games would post 14 points and 59 PIMs. However in a short stint with the Calgary Flames, Aliu would impress (3 points in 2 games) and earn a one year deal with the club.
2012-2013 however would see Aliu spend most of the year in Abbotsford due to the NHL lockout and his stats would take continue to spiral down (11 points in 42 games) and his PIMs would rise greatly (111 PIM). And following the end of the year Aliu was not re-signed.
So where does that leave us? Aliu has shown flashes of good offensive skill dating back to his days in the OHL. He's is also unafraid to drop the gloves and engage in a scrap as evidenced by his high PIM numbers, so its clear that he fits into the grittier look Marc Bergevin has brought to the Montreal Canadiens franchise. Early reports from the Bulldogs preseason games have been nothing but positive, noting that Aliu has shown good offensive instincts and has been unlucky to not have scored yet. When properly motivated and focused Akim Aliu can be a highly useful power forward at the AHL level, and can be called upon to fill in on the 4th line in the NHL. Hopefully we see the focused version of Aliu during the Bulldogs upcoming season as he can add another solid tool to the young squad looking to have a breakout year.