2011-12: Mikael Saari played in Tampere for Ilves U16 (C junior) team. He had a 4.35 goals against and .868 save percentage in 21 regular season games and in four playoff contests had a 3.92 goals against and .899 save percentage.
2012-13: Saari moved up to the U18 level as a 16-year-old and competed for Finland's U17 team. In 34 games with Ilves top team he had a 3.59 goals against and .898 save percentage. He played three games for Ilves' second team during the regular season and in nine playoff games had a 3.06 goals against and .912 save percentage. Saari was 1-0 with a 1.93 goals against and .920 save percentage, appearing in two games for Finland at the 2013 World Hockey Challenge.
2013-14: Saari split the season between Ilves' U20 and U18 teams and played for Finland's U18 team in two tournaments. He had a 2.92 goals against and .886 save percentage in 12 SM-Liiga junior games. Saari played 24 games for Ilves' U18 team in the regular season and had a 2.92 goals against and .901 save percentage. In five playoff games he was 3-2 with a 2.40 goals against and .937 save percentage. Saari stopped 15 of 16 shots in Finland's 5-1 win over Switzerland in his only game in the 2013 Four Nations Tournament in December and played two games at the 2013 Five Nations Tournament in Switzerland — finishing 0-2 with a 3.00 goals against and .889 save percentage. Saari was ranked 13th amongst International goaltenders in Central Scouting's mid-term rankings prior to the 2014 NHL Draft.
Saari, who is viewed by one European scout as "just above average" in terms of his long-term potential, has had some success skating for Ilves at the junior level. He has the height of a prototypical NHL goaltender but needs to fill out to handle the rigors of a full pro season. Overshadowed by Kaapo Kahkonen of Espoo Blues and 2015 NHL draft-eligible Jokerit goalie Joona Voutilainen with the Finland U18 junior team, Saari must continue to develop all areas of his game.
Saari to this point has played well at the junior level and has some elements of his game that are attractive to scouts. In the near future, he will try and establish himself as a starter at the U20 level in Finland in 2014-15. Like most young goalies it is difficult to predict how far he can take his game but he has a talent base upon which to build.