Two big offensive pieces are headed to the Checkers, with Aleksi Saarela joining the team from overseas and Valentin Zykov returning from his NHL stint.
With his season with Lukko Rauma over, the Hurricanes have assigned Saarela to the Checkers. The Finnish forward, who is making the jump to the North American pro game for the first time, was selected in the third round of the 2015 draft by the New York Rangers and acquired by Carolina in the Eric Staal trade made at last year’s deadline.
Saarela, 20, has been honing his craft in his home country’s top pro league, SM-Liiga, recently wrapping up his third full season. He has led his team in goals each of the last two years, including tying for fourth in the league as an 18-year-old in 2015-16. Overall the 5-foot-11 Helsinki native, who captured a gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship alongside current Hurricane Sebastian Aho, has 77 points (42g, 35a) in 166 SM-Liiga games.
In another move, the Canes have assigned physical forward Zykov back to Charlotte.
The second-year pro lit the lamp in his NHL debut against the New York Rangers on March 9, but suffered an injury in his first shift of the next game, forcing him to the sideline for two weeks. Now cleared for game action, Zykov will join the Checkers where he has broken out as an offensive force. The Russian forward has marked 15 goals and 15 assists in 55 games for Charlotte this season, his first with the club, and ranks third on the team in both goals and points despite missing the last handful of games. He also had eight points in his last nine games with the Checkers before heading to the NHL.
Both forwards will join the team in Cleveland and could be options for two games against the Monsters with huge playoff implications.
Finally, in a roster move of their own, the Checkers have assigned Mitchell Heard to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. This marks the second ECHL stint for the 25-year-old forward, who has four assists in 36 games for Charlotte this season. In six previous games with Florida, Heard racked up six points (3g, 3a).