2016-17 Mid-Season Report: Aleksi Saarela

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Aleksi Saarela didn’t have the easiest start to the ongoing season. He had surgery before the start of the season and therefore missed Traverse City Prospects Tournament and Carolina Hurricanes’ training camp in September. He played his first Liiga game of the season with Lukko on October 13th. Then he played eight games before being out for two games in November.

He has really found his scoring touch in recent contests, with five goals in as many games. An interesting thing to notice is that he has scored all of his eight goals since Kari Heikkilä became Lukko’s head coach in November. He is eager to shoot, averaging 4.63 shot attempts per game this season. If the center stays healthy, he’s likely to have a strong offensive output, and even hitting the 20-goal mark is definitely not out of question.

In December, Saarela told Finnish hockey media Kiekkoareena that founding easiness to his game was a big reason for ending an eleven game scoreless drought. And, naturally, the fact that he was healthy. Now that he hasn’t been dealing with injury problems, there have been good results as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

He has a great, NHL level shot that could still considerably improve, given the fact that he’s only 19 years old. Both his slap shot and wrist shot feature great accuracy and velocity, making him an extremely dangerous and capable goal-scorer. He can also score on a backhander with relative ease as evidenced by this great goal against Tappara on December 20th. He’s a sturdy built, strong player and he skates with good speed, gets up and down the ice pretty well. I think he could improve his game off the puck and add a little bit more consistency to have an even greater impact on the ice. I think that Saarela has the potential to be Top 6 forward for the Carolina Hurricanes in the future.

Photo: AOP