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.

(Video) 2015 U18 World Championship: Aleksi Saarela, Forward, Finland

by Chapin Landvogt
on
Aleksi Saarela - Team Finland - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship

Photo: Team Finland forward and 2015 prospect Aleksi Saarela played for Assat in Liiga in the 2014-15 season, scoring six goals and 12 assists in 51 games for that club (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt)

 

 

While the first semifinal game at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship ended up being won going away by Team USA, the second game provided a thrilling, overtime victory for Team Finland, and an agonizing loss for host team Switzerland as the Finns pulled out a 5-4 OT win at Brassard Arena in Zug, Switzerland. Read more»

2015 U18 World Championship Preview: Question marks at defense, in goal could hamper Finland’s medal aspirations

by Tony Piscotta
on
Jesse Puljujarvi - Team Finland

Photo: Karpat Oulu forward and 2016 prospect Jesse Puljujarvi will be a player of interest for NHL scouts at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship (courtesy of Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

 

 

The 2014-15 season has been a difficult one for Finland‘s U18 team. Both at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August and in the most recent Five Nations Tournament, the squad has been uncharacteristically charitable in giving up scoring opportunities and have left their goaltenders out to dry at times. Read more»

2015 NHL Draft: Rantanen the class of Finland’s 2015 crop at midseason

by Tony Piscotta
on
Mikko Rantanen - Team Finland - 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Tournament

Photo: TPS Turku forward and 2015 prospect Mikko Rantanen was the top scorer for Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championship with four goals in five games (courtesy of Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

 

The trend of top junior talent heading to Canada has continued to skim some of the top talent from the junior level in Finland. In recent years that exodus has also seen players heading to the USHL. But with many of the top pro players heading to other leagues, some of the nation’s top draft-eligible prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft are gaining experience playing against men in the country’s top pro league, Liiga. Read more»

2014-15 Liiga Preview, Pt. 2: Tough act to follow as Vaasa Sport replaces KHL-bound Jokerit

by Tony Piscotta
on
Juuse Saros - Team Finland

Photo: HPK Hameenliina goaltender and Nashville Predators prospect Juuse Saros backstopped Finland to the gold medal at the 2014 WJC and is likely to be a key player for that country at this year’s WJC (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

In part two of the 2014-15 Liiga preview, Hockey’s Future takes a look at the remaining teams from Finland‘s top hockey league not covered in part one. Included in the second part is Liiga newcomer Vaasa Sport, the team selected to replace arguably the league’s most heralded organization, Jokerit, who is now a part of Russia‘s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Read more»

2014 U18 WJC Preview: Host Finland looking to improve on 2013 bronze finish

by Tony Piscotta
on

Kasperi Kapanen - Team Finland

Photo: KalPa Kuopio forward and 2014 prospect Kasperi Kapanen, shown here playing at the 2013 U18 World Championship, will play for host Finland at the 2014 edition of this tournament (courtesy of ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Finland, the host team for the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship, finished fifth in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last summer despite winning three of the four games it played. With a number of key additions — particularly on defense — the U18 team competing in Imatra and Laapenranta should be stronger than the team that skated in Piestany, Slovakia.

Read more»