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Photo: Sam IannamicoPhoto: Sam Iannamico

Saarela named CCM/AHL Player of the Week

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Charlotte Checkers forward Aleksi Saarela has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Apr. 2, 2017.

Saarela made his American Hockey League debut last week and recorded four goals and two assists for six points with a plus-5 rating in four games, helping Charlotte stay in the thick of the playoff race in the Central Division.

In his first taste of North American hockey, Saarela scored a goal in Charlotte’s 3-2 overtime loss at Cleveland on Tuesday night. In Thursday’s rematch he recorded two assists as the Checkers defeated the Monsters, 4-1, and on Friday he scored twice in the third period to send Charlotte to a 3-1 victory at division-leading Grand Rapids. Finally, Saarela notched another goal in a 5-3 defeat at Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

Saarela was reassigned to Charlotte from Lukko, where he led the Liiga team with 15 goals and ranked fourth with 28 points in 49 games in 2016-17, his third full season playing in Finland’s top league. The 20-year-old native of Helsinki won a gold medal with Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships, and was originally selected by the New York Rangers in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Saarela was acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 28, 2016, as part of the trade that sent Eric Staal to New York.

In recognition of his achievement, Saarela will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Checkers home game.