January 25, 2023
DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the team has acquired forwards Matt Nieto and defender Ryan Merkley from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defensemen Jacob McDonald and further Martin Kaut.
Nieto, 30, has 15 points (8g/7a) in 45 games for the San Jose Sharks this season. He returns to the Avalanche after spending more than three seasons with Colorado from 2017-20. The Long Beach, California native was released from waivers by the Avs on January 5, 2017 and amassed 81 points (34g/47a) in 251 games with the club. He posted career-highs in games played (74) and goals (15) in the 2017–18 season, and in 2018–19 he equaled a playoff career best with four goals and seven points.
A second-round pick (47th overall) by the Sharks in the 2011 NHL Draft, Nieto has a total of 190 points (81g/109a) in 615 career NHL games with San Jose and Colorado and added 21 points (8g/13a) in 55 career contests after the season. He played in his 600th NHL game on December 20, 2022 against Calgary, becoming the second California-born player to reach 600 NHL competitions.
The 5-foot-11, 187-pound left wing appeared in 13 career American Hockey League games with the Worcester Sharks from 2012-14, scoring 11 points (4g/7a). Before turning pro, he played collegiate hockey at Boston University from 2010 to 2013, where he averaged 102 points (44g/58a) in 115 career games.
Nieto also participated in the US National Team Development Program from 2008 to 2010 and won back-to-back gold medals with Team USA at the 2009 and 2010 IIHF U18 World Championships. He is the fourth California-born player to dress for the Avalanche, following Scott Parker, Ray Macias and Rocco Grimaldi.
Merkley, 22, has 14 points (0g/14a) in 30 games for the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League this season. A first-round pick (21st overall) for the Sharks in the 2018 NHL Draft, Merkley has six points (1g/5a) in 39 career games for San Jose. He has 44 points (2g/42a) in 93 career AHL competitions, all for San Jose.
The 6-foot, 186-pound defenseman averaged 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, earned First Team All-Rookie Honors, and paced all league defenders in assists in 2018-19 (57) and 2019-20 (61).