After making waves in his first foray into the North American pro game, Aleksi Saarela has been named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week.
The 20-year-old native of Helsinki, Finland, joined the Checkers on March 27 and notched at least one point in each of Charlotte’s four games this week, finishing with six points (4g, 2a) and a plus-five rating.
After lighting the lamp in his North American debut on March 28 in Cleveland, Saarela picked up a pair of assists in the rematch two nights later, followed by a two-goal effort in the Checkers’ win over Grand Rapids on March 31. He wrapped up his week Sunday night in Chicago with a power-play goal to spark a near comeback for the Checkers.
Saarela was selected in the third round of the 2015 draft by the New York Rangers and was acquired by the Hurricanes in last season’s deadline deal involving Eric Staal. The 5-foot-11 center recently finished his season with Lukko Rauma of the SM-Liiga, where he led the team in goals.
Saarela is the seventh player in franchise history to earn AHL Player of the Week honors and the first this season. He is only the third Checkers’ skater to do so, joining Brock McGinn in 2014-15 and Zach Boychuk in 2010-11.