2009-10: Juuse Saros played for the HPK U16 team in his hometown of Hameenlinna and was selected to play in the 2010 Pohjola Camp for the top U16 players in Finland.
2010-11: Saros appeared in 31 games for HPK U16 and received the Jukka Tammi Award as the top U16 goalie in Finland. In seven qualifying games for HPK he had a 1.86 goals against and .954 save percentage. Saros played 24 games during the regular season and was 13-10 with 2 shutouts, posting a 3.11 goals against and .933 save percentage. In three playoff games he was 0-3 with a 4.67 goals against and .919 save percentage. He appeared in two games with Finland’s U16 team.
2011-12: Saros led HPK to the U20 SM-Liiga semifinals, jumping from U16 to U20 after getting off to a fast start with HPK’s U18 team. He capped his season with a strong run in the U20 playoffs, finishing 6-4 with a 2.10 goals against and .937 save percentage and recorded 28 saves in HPK’s 5-3 win over KalPa in the bronze medal game. Saros played 32 of 48 games for HPK U20 during the regular season and was 20-10 with 2 shutouts; posting a 2.53 goals against and .910 save percentage. Saros opened the season with HPK U18 and was 7-1 in the qualifying series with 2 shutouts and a 1.25 goals against and .958 save percentage. In six regular season games he was 4-2 with a 1.48 goals against and .957. Saros was named to Team Finland’s for the 2012 U18 World Junior Championship but did not see any action.
2012-13: Saros was one of the top goalies in Finnish junior hockey, leading HPK to the first U20 SM-Liiga championship in club history, and backstopped Finland to a bronze medal at the 2013 U18 World Junior Championship in Sochi, Russia. In 43 games during the regular season he was 24-13 with 4 shutouts and had a 1.86 goals against and .933 save percentage. HPK rolled through the playoffs after finishing in first place, and Saros started all 11 games, finishing 9-2 with a 2.09 goals against and .923 save percentage. At the U18 WJC, he started all seven games for Finland, including the 2-1 bronze medal game win over Russia, and was 5-2 with a 1.86 goals against and .946 save percentage. Saros was the top rated European goaltender in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2013 NHL Draft.
2013-14: Saros made a smooth transition from junior hockey to pro hockey in Finland— capturing the starter’s role for HPK Hameenlinna and winning the Jarmo Wasama Award as the top rookie in Liiga — and backstopped the Finland U20 team to a gold medal. He was 16-16-8 with seven shutouts and had a 1.76 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 44 regular season games. Saros started all six playoff games for HPK and was 2-4 with a 2.29 goals against and .903 save percentage. In six games at the World Junior Championship he had a 1.57 goals against and .943 save percentage.
Juuse Saros lacks the height of other top goaltending prospects but he is a technically adept goaltender that uses angles and outstanding athleticism to compensate for that perceived shortcoming. His biggest strengths include his ability to compete, his penchant for stopping second and third chance opportunities, and the mental composure to quickly put goals behind him. Saros has the strength, durability and stamina to play every night, having played over 50 games in back-to-back seasons over the past two years.
Saros will skate with the Finland U20 team in Lake Placid in August and will likely be in net for the 2015 World Junior Championship. He has yet to sign with the Predators and will likely spend at least one more season with HPK in Finland before coming over to North America. Extremely advanced for a goalie of his age, he has won championships both domestically and internationally at the junior levels — often while under heavy pressure. Questions about his size remain but he has the outlook and technical game to one day be a successful starter.