2010-11: Aleksi Makela played for the Ilves U16 team in Tampere, Finland. He scored 6 goals with 14 assists and had 43 penalty minutes in 30 games.
2011-12: Makela appeared in four U20 SM-Liiga games with Ilves’ junior team; spending most of the season at the U18 level. He had no points and was -2 with 2 penalty minutes in four U20 games. Makela played 35 games with Ilves’ U18 team, including three playoff games, and scored 5 goals with 9 assists and 12 penalty minutes. He also skated for Ilves’ second B junior team, which captured a silver medal in its division. He had 2 assists in two regular season games and scored 4 goals with 6 assists and had 10 penalty minutes in nine playoff games.
2012-13: Makela made his SM-Liiga debut in February, skating in seven late season games and three relegation playoff contests for Ilves after playing for the club’s U20 and U18 teams during the season. He scored 1 goal with 1 assist and was -2 with 4 penalty minutes during the regular season. Finishing last for the third time in four seasons, Ilves defeated Mestis champion Jukurit in a best-of-seven series to avoid relegation. Makela was +2 with 1 assist in three relegation games. He scored 8 goals with 9 assists in 37 games and was +3 with 42 penalty minutes for Ilves U20 team, which finished 11th, one point out of a playoff spot. Makela skated in eight games for Finland’s U18 team, with 2 assists, but was not part of the bronze medal-winning squad in Sochi. Ranked 96th amongst European skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings, Makela was selected by Dallas in the seventh round (182nd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
2013-14: Makela appeared in nine Liiga games for Ilves and played three games with LeKi in Mestis, the Finland second league — spending most of the year with the Ilves U20 team in an injury-marred season. He missed time in the beginning of the year due to a hand/wrist injury and in his limited Liiga opportunity was -4 with no points and 4 penalty minutes; averaging 17:28 minutes of ice time per game. He was -3 with no points and 2 penalty minutes playing for LeKi. Makela scored 3 goals with 11 assists and was +4 with 16 penalty minutes in 25 games with the Ilves U20 team. Ilves finished sixth in the U20 SM-Liiga and lost to Assat in a quarterfinal series. Makela was an even plus/minus with no points and 2 penalty minutes in two playoff games.
Makela is a raw talent and has flown under the radar in terms of playing in Finland's junior program. He has the prototypical size of an NHL defenseman and skates well for his size. He plays a sound two-way game and his passing skills and play-making ability are what likely drew the attention of scouts. Makela had the opportunity to play in the Finland SM-Liiga as an 18-year-old in 2012-13 due to the lack of depth for Ilves' last-place men's team and gained valuable experience. Slowed by injuries the following season, he has pushed to crack the Liiga club lineup and shown progress.
Makela is skating for Ilves Tampere in Finland's Liiga in 2014-15. One of three junior-aged players on the much-improved club, he has had the predictable ups and downs of a player in his first season playing against men — and briefly was loaned to LeKi in Mestis. He and Ilves' teammate Mikke Levo were invited to the Finland U20 final camp and Makela competed for Finland in the 2015 World Juniors. Long-term Makela's size and mindset suggest he can be a steady defender with the ability to handle the transition at the NHL level one day. He must continue to progress in all areas to reach that level.