Aleksi Saarela
Image: Liiga

Aleksi Saarela

Hometown:

Helsinki Finland

Currently Playing In:

Europe

Birthday:

1997-01-07

Position:

C

Eligible for draft:

2015

Shoots:

Left

Drafted:

2015

Height:

5-10

Acquired:

Trade with NY Rangers, 2016

Weight:

195 lbs.

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History

2012-13: Aleksi Saarela made his Liiga debut late in the year as a 16-year-old, playing three games with Lukko Rauma, and split the year between the Lukko U20 and U18 teams. He played for the Finland U17 team in the 2013 World Hockey Challenge. Saarela scored 1 goal with 1 assist and was -2 in Liiga play. Saarela scored 8 goals with 10 assists and was -1 with 6 penalty minutes in 22 regular season games for the Lukko U20 squad. He scored 2 goals with 6 assists and was +6 with 2 penalty minutes in 10 playoff games. Lukko finished third, winning the bronze medal game. An assistant captain for the Lukko Rauma U18 team, he scored 17 goals with 19 assists and 15 penalty minutes in 22 games.

2013-14: Saarela was hampered by injuries — skating in just 29 games between the Lukko men’s team and U20 squad. He finished the season playing in two games as Finland hosted the 2014 U18 World Juniors. Saarela had 2 assists and was -4 with 2 penalty minutes in 12 Liiga games. He scored 6 goals with 16 assists and had an even plus/minus with 8 penalty minutes in 17 games with the Luuko junior team. In what was a disappointing U18 WJC tournament, concluding with a 10-0 loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals, Saarela scored 1 goal and was -2 in two games.

2014-15: Saarela went from Rauma to arch-rival Assat Pori — seeing full-time minutes in Liiga as a 17-year-old — and had a big tournament for the silver medal-winning Finland U18 team at the World Juniors. In 51 regular season games he averaged 13:26 minutes of ice time and scored 6 goals with 6 assists. He was -7 with 18 penalty minutes as Assat finished ninth. Pori was swept by SaiPa in a preliminary series. Saarela had 1 assist with an even plus/minus, averaging 10 minutes of ice time, in two playoff games. In seven games at the WJC he scored 3 goals with 5 assists and was +6 with 6 penalty minutes. Finland reached the gold medal game, falling 2-1 to the USA. Saarela was ranked 31st amongst European skaters in the Central Scouting final rankings and was selected by the New York Rangers in the third round (89th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft. 

Talent Analysis

Saarela is small with tremendous skating acceleration and very good speed. Although he is not tall, it is tough to get the puck away from him. He has excellent hockey sense, vision, and quick hands, so he can be a playmaker and a goal-scorer equally as well.

Future

Saarela was dealt by the New York Rangers along with two second round draft picks to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Eric Staal.

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