If that wasn’t enough, on Wednesday it was announced that Niku, Appleton and goaltender Michael Hutchinson had been named to the AHL’s All-Star teams, with rookies Niku and Appleton getting the call to the AHL’s first team, and Hutchinson selected for the second team.
It is the first time since the 1988-89 American Hockey League season that rookie teammates have been named to the AHL First All-Star Team (Stephan Lebeau and Benoit Brunet with Sherbrooke). Only four other rookie defencemen since 1975 have ever been selected as a First Team All-Star (P.K. Subban, Sami Vatanen, Justin Schultz, Brandon Montour).
Hutchinson has been nothing short of solid for Manitoba this season. After seeing a demotion from the Jets following the signing of goaltender Steve Mason this past summer, the 28-year-old backstop has put together a 15-5-4 record with a .933 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average. Hutchinson collected November and December’s edition of the AHL Goaltender of the Month, as well as the AHL Player of the Week from the 10th to 17th of December.
Niku is currently tied for first in AHL defencemen scoring, with 15 goals and 52 points in 71 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.
Appleton – the man whom Niku trails in points on the Moose – is also having a whale of year for Manitoba. The 22-year-old has 21 goals and 40 assists on the year, setting franchise records for assists and points as a rookie in the process. Appleton currently sits fourth in league scoring and is first in rookie scoring. The Jets chose Appleton one pick before they selected Niku in the 2015 draft.
With three out of the 12 All-Stars coming from the Moose, Manitoba represents 25 percent of the American Hockey League’s All-Stars. With the Toronto Marlies (3) and the Laval Rocket (1) also having All-Stars selected, over half of the All-Star contingent hails from Canada, even though only four of 30 AHL teams are situated in Canada.
All players selected to AHL All-Star Teams will receive a custom designed crystal award highlighting this honour.
The Manitoba Moose close out their 2017-18 season with two games at home this weekend, before hitting the road for two games in Cleveland, before wrapping up the schedule in Chicago on April 15th.