After getting sidetracked a bit with the trade deadline, we are working hard to pull in ‘Midterm’ reports for as many of the Hurricanes’ prospects below the AHL level as possible. You can find a menu of the 9 players already covered at the bottom of this article.
As most know by now, the general format of the ‘Midterms’ and almost all sub-AHL coverage at Canes and Coffee is to leverage the help of scouts, analyst and media who are local to the players and watch them play regularly. This ‘from the rink’ perspective goes much deeper than what I or someone else could do researching players on Google and pulling a few stats.
But then there is the curious case of Aleksi Saarela. I have taken to calling him either the “unknown prospect” or the “mystery prospect.” Since being acquired from the New York Rangers in the Eric Staal trade last winter, he has yet to step on the ice at PNC Arena or wearing a Hurricanes jersey. He signed his 3-year entry-level deal with the Hurricanes on June 13, 2016, but he was injured last summer and missed both the July prospect camp and also the Traverse City Tourney in the early fall. Saarela is continuing his development playing professional hockey in Finland. And with the geographic and language challenges, I have not been able to find a Finland-based scout or analyst to provide a check in on Saarela’s 2016-17 season. So I will divert from the preferred path and provide a research-based update to at least offer some insight into his season.
Aleksi Saarela profile (conceptually)
From reading scouting profiles and browsing a few video clips, the Caniac familiar who comes to mind is Sami Kapanen. Saarela can play center or left wing. As a smaller player with speed to burn and enough skill to finish or create, the wing version of Saarela could match fellow countryman and Hurricane favorite Kapanen.
Aleksi Saarela 2016-17 season capsule
As noted above, Saarela missed both the prospect camp and the Traverse City Tourney due to minor surgery. Initially, expectations were that he might join the team for the NHL training camp, but that did not happen either. The 2016-17 season marks another with injury setbacks. His draft stock fell a bit when he was injured and he has now been laid up a couple more times. His 2016-17 season started slowly. His production has increased as the season has progressed, but his 14 goals and 13 assists in 47 games still comes up short of the 20 goals and 13 assists that he posted in 2015-16.
Until we get a chance to see him on the ice at PNC Arena hopefully for prospect camp this summer, he Aleksi Saarela will continue to be more mystery than known quantity.
More on Aleksi Saarela plus menu of previous MIDTERMS on Hurricanes prospects
Previous coverage on Aleksi Saarela at Canes and Coffee includes:
If you missed them and want to catch up, you can find the other entries in the ‘Midterms’ series here: