The Carolina Hurricanes acquired Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela from the New York Rangers this spring, bringing in the former third round pick as part of the deal that sent veteran forward Eric Staal to the Big Apple.
Now, just a few months later, the Hurricanes have ensured that they’ll be able to keep him around.
It was reported on Monday afternoon that the Hurricanes have inked Saarela, drafted 89th overall by the Rangers in 2015, to an entry-level deal. He’ll be eligible to come over to North America and play starting this upcoming season.
A native of Helsinki, Finland, the 19-year-old forward is coming off his second full season spent in Finland’s top pro league, SM-liiga, with Ässät. He put up a personal best 20 goals and 33 points in 51 regular season games for the club, finishing an impressive 35th in scoring across the entire league despite playing with as many as 10 games in hand on some of the skaters who outproduced him. He then contributed with a point-per-game at the 2016 U20 World Junior Championships this past winter, recording seven points in seven games en route to a gold medal with Team Finland.
The Hurricanes may not want to see the undersized forward enter their NHL lineup next year, but he could be a fantastic add for the club at the AHL level with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. Add in that the club inked fellow prospect Sebastian Aho earlier in the day, and things are looking up for the Metropolitan Division club.