Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Antti Saarela was a likely candidate to represent Finland at the upcoming World Juniors, returning to the tournament after taking part last year. That has been thrown into question today as Brandon Cain of NHL.com reports that Saarela will be out two to four weeks with an undisclosed injury.
The 19-year-old forward was selected 123rd overall by the Blackhawks in 2019 but managed to secure a full-time spot on Ilves last season, scoring 12 points in 40 games. He returned to the Finnish club this year and had ten points in his first 17 games, looking more dangerous every time the puck touched his stick while maintaining his excellent skating abilities.
After going scoreless in seven games at the World Juniors last year, this year’s tournament would have been a chance for Saarela to exact some revenge and raise his international profile. Given that the tournament is almost exactly four weeks away he could potentially recover in time, but it obviously isn’t a guarantee.
Saarela isn’t yet under contract with the Blackhawks, but the team has until 2023 to sign him. If the big development step he has taken this year is any indication, a future in the NHL is waiting for him down the road.