The best 7th round pick the Jets ever made was calling out Sami Niku‘s name back in 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. Niku was a smooth-skating defenceman out of the JYP Jrs. program.
He came over from Finland for the 2017-18 season and blossomed with the Manitoba Moose earning the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenceman (second rookie ever to do that). Niku put up 16G and 38A for 54 points in 76 games with Manitoba that season. At the end of that season he earned his first NHL game against the Canadiens and scored his first ever NHL goal.
Niku played a total of 54 regular season games in the NHL with the Jets, scoring twice and adding eight assists but he could never seem to secure a regular spot in the lineup. Despite the fact that #FreeNiku hashtag was used frequently by fans in Winnipeg it became reality but not in the way they intended when he was eventually placed on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract in September of 2021 (he had one year remaining).
He would sign on with Montreal and split time between the Habs and the Rocket of the AHL for the 2021-22 season playing 13 more NHL games as well as 36 with Laval.
Now he will go back to where it all started as he will join his old club JyP HT Jyvaskyla. They tweeted this morning about Niku re-joining the club:
Se on totta – Sami Niku palaa kotiin! ??
Viisi edellistä kautta Pohjois-Amerikassa pelannut Niku palaa JYPiin yksivuotisella sopimuksella.
Sami Nikun kummiyrityksenä kaudella 2022-2023 toimii Finse.
— JYP Jyväskylä (@JYPJyvaskyla) July 29, 2022
It was always enjoyable to cover Niku as he had a good sense of humour and was always quick to joke/laugh (which if you covered him you know was quite unique). Jyväskylä is about two hours south of Niku’s hometown of Haapavesi.