Avalanche acquires Matt Nieto and Ryan Merkley from San Jose

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the team has acquired forward Matt Nieto and defenseman Ryan Merkley from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Jacob MacDonald and forward Martin Kaut.

Nieto, 30, has scored 15 points (8g/7a) in 45 games for the San Jose Sharks this season. He returns to the Avalanche after spending three-plus seasons with Colorado from 2017-20. The Long Beach, Calif., was originally claimed off waivers by the Avs on Jan. 5, 2017 and collected 81 points (34g/47a) in 251 games with the club. He set career highs in games played (74) and goals (15) during the 2017-18 season and reached playoff career bests with four goals and seven points in 2018-19.

A second-round pick (47th overall) of the Sharks in the 2011 NHL Draft, Nieto has totaled 190 points (81g/109a) in 615 career NHL games with San Jose and Colorado and has added 21 points (8g/13a) in 55 career postseason contests. He played in his 600th NHL game on Dec. 20, 2022 vs. Calgary, becoming the second-ever California-born player to reach 600 NHL contests.

The 5-foot-11, 187-pound left wing appeared in 13 career American Hockey League games with the Worcester Sharks from 2012-14, recording 11 points (4g/7a). Prior to turning pro, he played collegiate hockey at Boston University from 2010-13, where he totaled 102 points (44g/58a) in 115 career outings.

Nieto also suited up for the US National Team Development Program from 2008-10, winning back-to-back gold medals with Team USA at the 2009 and 2010 IIHF Under-18 World Championships. He is the fourth California-born player to dress in a game for the Avalanche, joining Scott Parker, Ray Macias and Rocco Grimaldi.

Merkley, 22, has scored 14 points (0g/14a) in 30 games for the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda this season. A first-round selection (21st overall) of the Sharks in the 2018 NHL Draft, Merkley has collected six points (1g/5a) in 39 career games for San Jose. He has produced 44 points (2g/42a) in 93 career AHL contests, all for San Jose.

The 6-foot, 186-pound defenseman recorded 269 points (54g/215a) in 248 career Ontario Hockey League games for the Guelph Storm, Peterborough Petes and London Knights. He led all rookies in assists (43) and points (55) in 2016-17, earning First Team All-Rookie Honors, and paced all league defensemen in assists in 2018-19 (57) and 2019-20 (61).

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