After already being named to the AHL’s First Team All-Stars, the AHL All-Rookie Team, Manitoba’s Best Defenceman and Co-Rookie of the Year, Niku received one more recognition.
On Tuesday the American Hockey League announced that Niku is the 2017-18 recipient of the Eddie Shore Award, a trophy handed out annually to the AHL’s most outstanding defenceman. The trophy, which was named after one of hockey’s all-time greatest defencemen, Eddie Shore – who captured seven Calder Cups over his time playing, managing and owning – has been presented every year since the 1958-59 season.
Niku is the first Manitoba Moose defenceman to ever win this award, and just the second rookie blueliner to accomplish this feat in the history of the AHL.
Niku, a recent NHL call-up is currently second in AHL defencemen scoring, with 16 goals and 53 points in 73 games played. The 21-year-old is also second on the Moose in scoring, and has produced the most points by a rookie defenceman in Manitoba Moose history. Niku was drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
In early April Niku was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets in acknowledgement to his productive season with the Moose. As the Jets were battling the injury bug on their back-end at the time, Niku slotted in nicely for one game. And truth be told, he found the twine for his first career NHL goal, on his first career NHL shot, in his first career NHL game.
Niku’s +19 rating is the best of all top-six defenceman in the AHL, and is currently sitting third place – behind two forwards (one of which is teammate Mason Appleton) – in rookie scoring.
The Moose close out their regular season with two games in Cleveland, and the season finale in Chicago on Sunday. Tickets for the Calder Cup Playoffs are available for purchase from moosehockey.com/tickets.
By Carter Brooks
Photo by Jeff Miller