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Fantasy Summary

Talented winger has top six potential, with goal scoring upside at even strength and with the man advantage.


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January 2024 – Saarela, now in his mid-twenties, has spent several years overseas and does not appear to have an NHL future at this time. Ben Gehrels

August 2021 – While the Panthers still own the NHL rights to Saarela, the talented 24-year old sniper has signed a contract for 2021-2022 to play in the Swiss National League. After three solid seasons in the AHL, the former third round pick went nearly a point-per-game last year in the Liiga, finishing fifth in the league in goals and first in goals-per-game (among players with more than 20 games played). But with an increasing number of prospects leapfrogging him in the line to join the big club, and with the Panthers shifting into win-now mode, Saarela may need a trade to bring him back to North America and keep his NHL hopes alive. If he gets an opportunity, he still has the potential to be a solid middle-six contributor. Ben Gehrels

April 2020 – Saarela quickly established his spot on Florida’s roster after being traded by Carolina, and will likely hold onto that spot next year. Fantasy owners may find themselves putting Saarela in their line-up quite frequently. Keith Fries

February 2020 – Saarela has been the focal point of the AHL Springfield Thunderbirds’ top-line, helping anchor the team with his high-end offensive skillset. In my recent viewing, Saarela showed excellent poise against his old club – the AHL Charlotte Checkers – constantly tracking the puck and picking the right moments to hang back or attack. Showed good speed when driving north-south on the backcheck and did all the little things that will earn him playing time, in Florida. Fantasy owners can also expect those minutes to translate into points (and quite a few at that). Keith Fries


April 2019 – Another strong AHL year for Saarela, finishing the 2018-19 regular season with 30 goals, just four shy of the AHL lead. The Finnish forward eclipsed career highs in goals (30), assists (24) and points (54) and has been a main cog in the Charlotte Checkers success both in the regular season, and so far throughout the Calder Cup playoffs. Saarela will likely be in the mix for a roster spot in the fall, as the Canes continue to add to the success of the 2018-19 campaign. His role likely settles as a middle-six forward who can provide scoring at both even strength and with the man advantage. Kevin LeBlanc


May 2018 – Saarela took the AHL by storm last year before the Charlotte Checkers bowed out of the AHL playoffs with 10 points in his first nine games in North America. The Finnish forward was a key offensive contributor for the Checkers this season, finishing third on the team with 25 goals. Somewhat surprising that the 21-year-old has yet to make his NHL debut, even for a quick look with the big club, but his opportunity likely will not be far off if he continues to produce in what will be his second full professional season in the AHL.  Kevin LeBlanc


April 2017 – With Lukko (Liiga) this season Saarela led his team in goals with 15, and finished the year with 28 points. After completion of his season in Finland, the forward joined the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Since making his debut in North America, Saarela has posted five goals and two assists in just five AHL games. With the Checkers fighting for the playoffs, he will be a key player down the stretch for Charlotte, and could potentially be in the Hurricanes lineup as early as next season.  Kevin LeBlanc


June 2016 – After being traded from the New York Rangers as the centerpiece of the Eric Staal deal, Saarela completed a solid season for Assat with 33 points in 51 games. His 20 goals led his team despite missing numerous games due to a midseason injury.  Kevin LeBlanc


January 2016- Saarela earned the opportunity to play for his home country of Finland in the 2016 U-20 World Junior Championships, a tournament being held on his home turf. That was just the beginning for Saarela, who managed to average a point-per-game in the tournament, scoring four goals and adding three assists in an effort that culminated in a gold medal. The gold medal game against Russia is a memory Aleksi will cherish forever, it was a back and forth matchup that would need an added period to decide the champion.  The game was 1:33 into overtime when Saarela made a strong play in the offensive zone and found teammate Kasperi Kapanen, who made a power move around the net to tuck one of the biggest goals in Finnish hockey history beating the Russians 4-3, and receiving the lone assist on Kapanen’s overtime goal. Concluding the celebration that I’m sure will last all night in Finland, Saarela will return to Ässät of the Finnish Elite League (Liiga), where he began this season. In the first 27 games he’s played with Ässät, Aleksi has 10 goals, five assists, and a plus-4 rating. If he carries the momentum he has from the World Juniors, a spike in scoring could be on tap for Saarela, who is trending in the right direction for the New York Rangers. Bryan Puffer


December 2015 – Looks like New York Rangers scouting staff once again found good value in the third round. Saarela was previously held as a first-round talent, but dropped last June to the third because of injuries and last two year’s lack of production. Lo and behold, Saarela has taken a turn and has had a good season in FEL. He scored ten goals and added five helpers in 27 games with Assat which earned him a spot on the Finnish WJC team. The small winger (5-11) with a strong build (200 lbs) has a shoot-first mentality, is solid in faceoffs and on PK. Saarela will play third line minutes for the Finnish national team alongside with Julius Nattinen and Juho Lammikko in this year’s U20 World Junior Championship in Helsinki. Jozsef Kurtosi


June 2015 – The New York Rangers selected Aleksi Saarela with the 89th pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Brendan Ross


June 2015 – Once regarded as a potential first-rounder after dominating junior leagues in his home country of Finland, Saarela’s stock has fallen recently. While he still remains an early to mid-round selection in the upcoming draft, questions about his ability to stay healthy have dogged him in recent years. He spent last season in Finland’s top professional league with Assat and experienced success in limited ice time. Saarela is short with a stocky frame, and while he isn’t the most technically sound skater, it is not an area of major concern. His main challenge to overcome is his defensive play, which will need to improve if he wants to make an impact at the next level. Matt Donohue

Fantasy Upside 5.0
NHL Certainty 3.0
Country FIN
Position RW
Roster Type Minors
Shoot/Glove Left
Date of Birth January 7, 1997
Height 5‘11”
Weight 200 lbs
Drafted 2015 Round 3; Overall: 89


 Season Team League GP G A TP PIM      Playoffs GP G A TP PIM 
 2010-2011 Lukko U16U16 SM-sarja Q1 1 01 0|        
  Lukko U16U16 SM-sarja1 1 12 0|        
 2011-2012 Lukko U16U16 SM-sarja Q8 11 1728 4|        
  Lukko U16U16 SM-sarja28 33 3972 26|Playoffs9 14 1529
  Finland U16 (all)International-Jr3 1 12 2|        
 2012-2013 Lukko U18U18 SM-sarja16 17 1936 14|        
  Lukko U20U20 SM-sarja22 8 1018 6|Playoffs10 2 68
  LukkoLiiga3 1 12 0|        
  Finland U17WHC-175 2 24 2|        
  Finland U17 (all)International-Jr4 1 12 2|        
 2013-2014 Lukko U20U20 SM-sarja17 6 1622 8|        
  LukkoLiiga12 0 22 2|        
  Finland U18WJC-182 1 01 0|        
  Finland U18 (all)International-Jr2 1 01 0|        
 2014-2015 ÄssätLiiga51 6 612 18|Playoffs2 0 00
  Finland U18WJC-187 3 58 6|        
  Finland U18 (all)International-Jr8 3 69 6|        
  Finland U20 (all)International-Jr7 0 00 2|        
 2015-2016 Ässät U20U20 SM-sarja2 0 22 0|Playoffs3 1 23
  ÄssätLiiga51 20 1333 14|        
  Finland U20WJC-207 4 37 4|        
  Finland U20 (all)International-Jr15 5 712 2|        
  Finland EHT2 0 00 0|        
  Finland (all)International5 1 12 0|        
 2016-2017 LukkoLiiga49 15 1328 10|        
  Charlotte CheckersAHL9 6 410 2|Playoffs5 0 00
  LukkoChampions HL1 1 01 0|        
 2017-2018 Charlotte CheckersAHL69 25 1843 8|Playoffs8 2 13
 2018-2019 Carolina HurricanesNHL0 0 00 0|Playoffs1 0 00
  Charlotte CheckersAHL69 30 2454 12|Playoffs17 7 815
 2019-2020 Rockford IceHogsAHL5 0 11 0|        
  Florida PanthersNHL9 2 24 0|Playoffs1 0 00
  Springfield ThunderbirdsAHL43 12 1931 12|        
 2020-2021 LukkoLiiga43 23 1437 22|Playoffs11 4 48
  Finland EHT3 1 01 2|        
  Finland (all)International3 1 01 2|        
 2021-2022 LangnauNL31 10 1222 6|        
 2022-2023 LangnauNL48 24 1539 10|Relegation6 2 46
  DavosSpengler Cup4 0 11 0|        
 2023-2024 LangnauNL50 18 2341 8|        
  Finland EHT3 1 01 0|        
  Finland (all)International3 1 01 0|        
 2024-2025 LangnauNL- - -- -|