Aleksi Saarela was not one of the original members on the Checkers roster to start to the season, but man has he fit in with the team like he has been playing with them all season. The Hurricanes acquired Saarela in a trade with the New York Rangers, that saw former Stanley Cup champion and Canes team captain Eric Staal traded away for the rights to Saarela and two second round picks. All I can say is that it is never easy to lose a franchise player like Eric Staal, especially when he has become so close with the fan base and the community.
Notes on Aleksi Saarela through 7 games with the Charlotte Checkers
But if Saarela is as good as he has looked for the Checkers, then the Hurricanes fan base may need to give Eric Staal one more thank you for what he has done for the franchise. The Finnish product has looked incredible in his first seven-game sample in North American professional hockey. He has tallied ten points, six of which have been goals where he has shown a tremendously hard/accurate shot. He is boasting a whopping 37.5% shooting percentage, something that is just unheard of but to be fair he has only taken 16 shots for the season. Saarela is a terrific skater, with quick acceleration that allows him to blow past slower defenders to create quality scoring opportunities. He is also strong on the puck and gets lower to the ice when he is skating, so he cannot be easily shoved or pushed off it. Saarela is featured not just on the power play, he also has been put out on the ice to help kill penalties for the Checkers in key moments of the game. Going back and looking at old scouting reports of Saarela before he was drafted I do not understand why he was projected and taken so late in his draft class year. He was clearly skilled even back when he was younger and the people who watched him consistently had nothing but good things to say about him. The only real knock about him is that he can be injury prone at times and it has caused him to miss some big games over his career in Europe. I absolutely think he looks NHL ready now, and I know I have been saying this a lot lately, but Hurricanes fans need to start getting really excited about this guy. It has been dark for 8 seasons now without a playoff light for this franchise and fan base but as cliché as it sounds, it is always the darkest before the dawn and Aleksi Saarela might just be part of the sun rising again.