Sami Niku’s season is just getting better, as today the AHL announced that he has been named the league’s top defenseman for the 2017-18 season. Niku had already been named to the All-Rookie and First All-Star Team, after recording 53 points in 73 games. His first year of professional hockey in North America couldn’t have gone any better—unless of course the Manitoba Moose win the Calder Cup—as he even scored his first NHL goal in the one game he played for the Winnipeg Jets.
Niku was selected in the seventh round three years ago, and is now the youngest player to ever take home top defenseman honors in the AHL. After playing well at every level so far, you can pencil him into a roster spot with the Jets in the coming years. That’s another hit for their draft and development systems, that have started to churn out NHL talent at a ridiculous rate.
- Remi Elie has been sent back to the AHL for the Texas Stars playoff run, after a successful rookie campaign with the Dallas Stars. Elie recorded 14 points in 72 games, and will now get a chance to show off in the minor leagues. Never an elite scoring talent, Elie will nevertheless be an offensive weapon for Texas, who are currently staring at a first round series with the Tucson Roadrunners. The second-round pick from 2013 won’t be waiver exempt again next season, meaning this might be his last chance to really contribute in the minor leagues for the Dallas organization.
- Similarly, the Edmonton Oilers have sent both Ethan Bear and Keegan Lowe back to the AHL to help the Bakersfield Condors in their last few matchups. Bear got into 18 games with the Oilers down the stretch, and could be a potential option for the team next season when they are looking for puck-moving right-handed defensmen. For now, both will focus on improving their play in the last few games of the AHL season and putting in an offseason of training.