Vili Saarijarvi

Hometown:

Rovaniemi Finland

Currently Playing In:

CHL

Birthday:

1997-05-15

Position:

D

Eligible for draft:

2015

Shoots:

Right

Drafted:

2015

Height:

5-9

Acquired:

3rd round (73rd overall), 2015

Weight:

163 lbs.

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History

2011-12: Vili Saarijarvi played for the RoKi U16 team in his hometown of Rovaniemi in northern Finland as a 14-year-old. In 33 games at the Division 1 level he scored 8 goals with 16 assists and 51 penalty minutes.

2012-13: Saarijarvi went from RoKi to Karpat Oulu in the Finland top division, skating for the club’s U20, U18 and U16 teams. In five games with the Karpat U20 team, including two A Juniors playoff games, he had 1 assist and was -4 with 4 penalty minutes. Saarijarvi was one of the top offensive defensemen in B Juniors skating for the Karpat U18 team. He scored 5 goals with 25 assists and 24 penalty minutes in 38 regular season games and had 1 assist with 2 penalty minutes in three playoff contests. The Karpat U16 team won the Finnish championship and in 19 games, including nine playoff games, Saarijarvi scored 9 goals with 16 assists and 18 penalty minutes.

2013-14: Saarijarvi spent his first full season in the Finland U20 league as a 16-year-old and played for the Finland U17 team in international play. In 40 regular season games he scored 7 goals with 21 assists and was +15 with 10 penalty minutes. Karpat reached the A Juniors finals against Espoo Blues after finishing fifth in the regular season. Saarijarvi scored 1 goal and had an even plus/minus with 6 penalty minutes in 12 playoff games. In 15 games with the Finland U17 team he scored 2 goals with 9 assists and was +9 with 12 penalty minutes. Saarijarvi was selected by Jokerit in the fifth round (207th overall) in the 2014 KHL Draft.

2014-15: Saarijarvi played for the Finland U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August before heading to North America to play for the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. He played a key role for the Finland U18 team in its surprising run to the gold medal game in the 2015 World Junior Championship. The top scorer amongst defensemen for the Gamblers, he scored 6 goals with 17 assists and was -3 with 14 penalty minutes in 57 games. Green Bay missed the playoffs, finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference. Saarijarvi scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in four games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Saarijarvi led all defensemen with nine points at the WJC, scoring 3 goals with 6 assists, and was +2 with 4 penalty minutes in seven games. Finland captured a silver medal, falling 2-1 to the USA in the gold medal game. Saarijarvi was not among the 210 North American skaters listed in the Central Scouting final rankings but was selected by Detroit in the third round (73rd overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft. He was selected by the Flint Firebirds (formerly the Plymouth Whalers) in the first round (9th overall) in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. Saarijarvi signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit in July 2015.

2015-16: Saarijarvi attended training camp with the Red Wings before joining the OHL’s Flint Firebirds and skated for the gold medal-winning Finland U20 team at the 2016 World Juniors. He made his pro hockey debut in April, skating for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Saarijarvi scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was -3 in five games with the Walleye. He scored 12 goals with 31 assists and was -15 with 32 penalty minutes in 59 regular season games for Flint as the Firebirds finished last in the West Division. Saarijarvi had 4 assists and an even plus/minus with 2 penalty minutes in seven games at the WJC. The host team, Finland defeated Russia in overtime, 4-3, in the gold medal game.

Talent Analysis

Saarijarvi is a fleet but small skating defenseman with off the charts offensive instincts. His size and attacking impulses sometimes compromise his defensive play and he will need to increase his awareness to have success at the next level.

Future

Saarijarvi had a roller coaster season in 2015-16 — making his professional debut with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye following his first season in the OHL. The 18-year-old signed an entry-level contract with Detroit in July 2015 before joining the OHL's Flint Firebirds. In a tumultuous first season after re-locating from Plymouth, the team's owners fired the coaching staff twice and the team ultimately finished last in its division. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Finland's U20 team won a gold medal on home ice in Helsinki and Saarijarvi was part of the team's lethal power play. Like fellow Red Wings' prospect Joe Hicketts, Saarijarvi is a fast but undersized puck mover who will need to add strength to compete at the pro level. He will likely spend one more year in junior hockey though he is eligible to play in the AHL as a 19-year-old in 2016-17.

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