The Winnipeg Jets have done it again.
With the 198th overall pick of the draft, the Jets have signed another undervalued player who could end up a home run in the late rounds.
The Jets take Sami Niku in the 7th round, a bit of a faller with some high-end talent.
Prior to the 2014 draft even occurring, the draft nerds were talking about what the next crop could bring. It was considered to be a strong year for Finland, being lead by Mikko Rantanen, Veeti Vainio, and others.
One of the most highly anticipated prospects was Sami Niku, a offensively gifted, left-shot defender.
The season though was considered a bit of a disappointment by many. Niku played some time in Finland’s premier league, the Liiga, but spent most of the year in the second tier Mestis league.
He actually scored exceptionally well in the Mestis, with 25 points in 39 games, but there were concerns over Niku’s defensive game.
However, as we noted earlier with the Jets pick Michael Spacek, simply playing at the professional level is indicative of a pretty good player who has a good chance to succeed.
Combining Niku’s cohort lists for his time in both the Mestis and Liiga, we get a list where about nine per cent of statistical cohorts reach the NHL for more than 200 games played. While this is far from a safe player, it’s pretty decent for the seventh round.
Interestingly enough, when combining all the major European pro-leagues as one sample, the most successful player that is statistically comparable to Niku is none-other-than Jets’ very own Tobias Enstrom. Another European who was highly touted prior to the draft, but fell into the late rounds.
The real value though is in Niku’s performance as a 16-year-old. With 14 points in 20 games, Niku impressed many early. Scoring at a rate similar to Joni Pitkanen and Tony Lydman at the same age, Niku performed well enough to earn a PCS percentage of 22.2.
As a player drafted out of Europe, Niku could play for the Manitoba Moose any year the Jets wish, provided Niku does not have a European pro-contract.
There could be some real value in Niku if he can return to form for the next year.