Complementary forward with middle-six upside. Has played center in junior but projects to be a winger at the pro level.
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October 2020- You can follow Saarela’s progress as he plays for Ilves in Liiga. He is off to a pretty good start to the 2020 season and could fast track his way to Rockford if this type of production continues. Tony Carr
June 2019 – Saarela has been drafted 123rd overall by the Blackhawks. Jokke Nevalainen
June 2019 – Saarela was officially measured at 5-foot-11.75 and 190 pounds at the NHL Draft Combine. Jokke Nevalainen
March 2019 – Saarela started this season in Jr. A SM-liiga which is the top junior level in Finland. While there, he put up seven goals and 15 points in 21 games. After that time, he’s been mostly playing at the top level in Liiga where he’s put up two goals and 10 points in 23 games. Saarela’s production in Liiga is very impressive but he’s also received great usage which has allowed him to produce points alongside talented players. Saarela comes from a true hockey family as his father Pasi was a long-time pro player and a local legend with Lukko which is probably partly why Antti has received such a great opportunity there as well. And Antti’s older brother Aleksi was drafted by the Rangers and is currently playing in Carolina’s system. The younger Saarela has also played 11 games with Finland’s U18 team and scored six points there. He’s expected to play an important role for Finland at the U18 Worlds.
Saarela has played center in junior but has been used purely as a winger at the pro level. His game is better suited for the wing, so I would expect him to stay there. He’s not big (5-11, 176) but he plays a fearless style of game and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty. Saarela is a great skater who can create offensive opportunities because of his speed but his acceleration and agility are also great. His puck-skills are very good which makes him very dangerous in one-on-one situations. He also has a good shot. His playmaking skills are decent but he’s more of a complementary player than someone who drives the offense. He plays a reliable defensive game as well. Besides skating, his tools don’t appear to be high-end which is why he projects to become a complementary third-line winger. Saarela is likely going to be drafted in the third round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Jokke Nevalainen
|2015-2016||Lukko U16||U16 SM-sarja Q||12||7||15||22||14||||
|Lukko U16||U16 SM-sarja||26||20||15||35||24|||||Playoffs||6||8||2||10||2|
|2016-2017||Lukko U16||U16 SM-sarja Q||1||3||1||4||0||||
|Lukko U18||U18 SM-sarja||34||5||15||20||40||||
|Finland U16 (all)||International-Jr||9||5||3||8||6||||
|2017-2018||Lukko U18||U18 SM-sarja||5||2||4||6||4|||||Playoffs||3||0||2||2||0|
|Lukko U20||U20 SM-sarja||25||6||9||15||6||||