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Ville Pokka clears waivers, assigned to AHL Rockford

The Finnish defenseman has played in the AHL the past three seasons.

NHL: Preseason-Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks assigned defenseman Ville Pokka to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL after he cleared waivers Saturday.

Pokka, 23, is no longer waiver-exempt, so he had to be placed on waivers in order to be reassigned to Rockford. The other 30 teams had a chance to make a claim on him, in which case the Blackhawks would have lost him while receiving nothing in return.

The Finnish blue liner has long been considered one of the Blackhawks’ top defensive prospects, but he’s failed to crack Chicago’s main roster since he joined the organization in 2014. The 2012 second-round pick had six goals and 24 assists last season with the IceHogs. After his third season in Rockford, the Hawks signed him to a one-year deal in June.

The move indicates that Pokka doesn’t have much trade value at this point, so the Blackhawks are simply trying to send him to the minors for depth. It’s also a strong signal that Jan Rutta has cemented his spot on the roster for opening night.

Pokka has posted 105 points in 220 AHL games the past three seasons. He was acquired in 2014 in a trade with the New York Islanders for two-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman Nick Leddy.