Vili Saarijärvi

by jameson on August 25, 2017
 

Vili Saarijärvi, D

Shoots: R

Height: 5-10

Weight: 165

Born: 1997-05-15

Hometown: Rovaniemi, FIN

Drafted: 73rd overall 2015 by Detroit Red Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations:

August 2017 – Much like Filip Hronek, Saarijärvi is a small, offensively creative defender who will enter his first pro season this year hoping to carve out a role with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Last season, after coming back from wrist surgery, Saarijärvi had a strong season, compiling 11 goals and 31 points in 34 games as well as five goals and 15 points in 20 games for the Mississauga Steelheads. He also had four points in six games at the World Juniors. His game will definitely need some maturing as he gets stronger and learns to play reliable defence at the pro level but the young right-handed defender has upside no doubt and rightfully deserves the attention he has been getting. It's very unlikely to be this season but if/when Saarijärvi gets a chance to suit up with the Red Wings, expect him to see plenty of power-play time and offensive zone starts. Jameson Ewasiuk

January 2017 – Though he had a late start to the season due to injury, the young Finnish rearguard has already hit his stride through his first 10 games with the Mississauga Steelheads, recording 12 points. Those 10 games were also a crucial warmup period for Saarijärvi as he again represented Finland at the world junior championship. This was a far different experience than last year's tournament, as high expectations faded early after a disastrous round-robin left the defending champions fighting to avoid relegation. Though the tournament outcome was a disappointment, the 19-year-old was still able to showcase the skill that earned him a third-round selection two years ago. He’s a tremendously smooth skater with strong first steps to break out of his zone and retrieve loose pucks dumped in his corner much quicker than opponents. He’s a multi-threat, puck-moving defenceman, able to zip a crisp stretch pass down ice better than most, as well as skate the puck out himself and become a fourth option on the rush. His deficiencies, however, lie in his small 5-10 frame that leaves him outmuscled, unable to contain bigger opponents along the boards and ineffective at boxing out and clearing unwanted bodies from his crease. He also needs to make more consistent plays in his own zone while under pressure. Joseph Highgate

September 2016 – The new start for the offensively dynamic Saarjarvi in Mississauga will be shortly delayed after it was announced the 19-year-old underwent off season wrist surgery recently. The undersized defenseman powered through the off-ice distractions of Flint in his first OHL season and led all Firebirds D with 43 points as well as putting in a solid World Junior performance that won his country gold. After requesting a trade, Saarjarvi looks to turn a new page with the Steelheads and carry over the momentum of the previous season in 2016-17. Joseph Highgate

March 2016 The Detroit Red Wings have another draft steal in Saarijiarvi. In his first season in the OHL he scored 43 points in 59 games for a poor and horribly mismanaged Flint Firebirds. Saarijarvi played a key role on Team Finland at the World Juniors capturing the Gold Medal on home soil scoring four points in seven games. Saarijarvi has been assigned to the AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids for the balance of the season, but the real question is where will he play next year? As he was drafted from the USHL and not the CHL, he is eligible to play in Grand Rapide full time next year if he is ready. His audition for the remainder of the season will be very telling for where he will play next year. Flint will not be an option. Peter Harling

December 2015 – What else is new, the Red Wings drafted another European - this time the 5’9” supremely skilled Finnish defenseman Vili Saarijarvi. Finland, this years host to the 2016 WJHC, will be hoping Saarjarvi maintains his offensive prowess after leading this past year's under-18 WHC tournament in scoring by defenseman, being named an All Star as well as best defenseman in the process.

Saarjarvi carried over his tournament success with a roaring start for the newly minted Flint Firebird franchise, scoring points in nine of his first 12 OHL games (amassing two goals and 13 assists). Since his scorching start he has cooled of late, but with the skating ability and offensive instincts of this young rearguard he will not be contained for long. Primed to play a big role in the 2016 WJHC, he hopes to quarterback what should be a very potent powerplay that could lead to him once again topping the scoring charts. Detroit was so enamored with their 2015 third-round choice that it took them a whole seven days to lock up their new prospect to a three-year entry-level deal as their development camp came to a close. Travis Watson

 

Fantasy Outlook: B

Top-four blueliner upside with the skating, IQ, passing and scoring potential that makes him an ideal candidate to quarterback Detroit’s power play in the future.

 

Footage:

A little taste of how Vili can impact a game from the backend with a video of his first two OHL tallies:

 

 

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