Jets could put top prospect Sami Niku on trade market

The Hockey Night panel looks at the biggest stories from around the NHL as the trade deadline approaches.

The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators have plenty in common. The Western heavyweights — No. 1 and No. 2 in the Central right now — are looking like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, appear to be built for long playoff runs and, should they enter the trade market ahead of the deadline, both clubs have an enticing piece they could put into play.

“As far as teams in the West, when we think about teams looking for Grade-A talent to trade for, we believe that Winnipeg and Nashville may be at the forefront here,” Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “We mentioned last week that the first-rounder would be in play, but when we talk about players like [Blue Jackets forward Artemi] Panarin being linked to Nashville or certainly [Senators pending UFA Mark] Stone to Winnipeg, it would be an additional top prospect involved.

Eeli Tolvanen is a first-rounder from 2017 from Nashville. This time last year, he was deemed an untouchable,” Kypreos continued. “And now, all of a sudden, his name constantly gets played as being one of those players involved in that type of deal.”

Tolvanen, selected 30th overall in 2017, has NHL GMs drooling over his elusiveness and elite release. The 19-year-old has a goal and an assist in a brief four-game tryout with Nashville in December, and has tallied eight goals and 17 points through 33 games at the AHL level with the Milwaukee Admirals.

“And as far as Winnipeg is concerned, it’s Sami Niku — AHL defenceman of the year — also mentioned a lot,” said Kypreos. “So if you’re talking about any teams wanting to deal with Winnipeg, it’s possible that that top prospect would be involved, too.”

Niku, 22, has a dozen games’ worth of NHL experience — he scored in his NHL debut last season, and has appeared in 11 contests in 2018-19 — and has tallied three points with the Jets. The Finnish defenceman, known for his strong vision and puckhandling, was selected by the Jets in the seventh round in 2015 and rose quickly through the Jets’ deep prospect pool on his way to being voted the AHL’s top defenceman in 2017-18.

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