Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was able to play in four NHL games last season with the Buffalo Sabres, along with 14 games in the AHL with the Rochester Americans and 13 games in the Finnish Liiga with TPS Turku.
If you look at his numbers with the Sabres, a 1-3-0 record with a 3.88 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage, you’d say he didn’t play very well, but I would disagree with that. On May 2, Luukkonen had to leave a game against the Boston Bruins after his skate got caught on the post, which resulted in a sprained his ankle. He wasn’t able to play the rest of the season.
I thought there were times Luukkonen was under siege, and I thought he stood up very well to it. Luukkonen was seeing an average of 41 shots per-game, which is probably about 10 too many.
I think he showed general manager Kevyn Adams and head coach Don Granato that he’s ahead of where many thought the 22-year-old would be.
Luukkonen joined an informal skate on Tuesday along with Robert Hägg, Kyle Okposo, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, Sean Malone, Aaron Dell and Jacob Bryson.
Luukkonen now knows what to expect when he plays in the NHL. He said knowing that gave him a good idea of what to do in the off season.
“Yes it helped," Luukkonen said following Tuesday's skate. "Getting the four games in and knowing what the level is like, and to know what you have to improve on over the summer helps and gives you that extra motivation to get through the summer and be better once the season starts.”
The big goalie said he took a week or two off and then got back to working on his game this offseason.
“Most it was getting faster, getting more speed to the legs and being a tall guy, better control to the body," Luukkonen explained. "So I have to be fast, but be able to control my big body. Those are the biggest things for me.”
Luukkonen said he did off-ice work every day during the summer, and also skated with a goalie coach on the ice. So the main focus, especially early on this summer, was off the ice.
After the Sabres signed Craig Anderson and Dell, Adams said Luukkonen will be given every opportunity in training camp to earn the No. 1 job.
“I thought I did the best I can to work hard and reach my goal to play in the NHL," Luukkonen said of the upcoming opportunity for himself this season in Buffalo. "I hope they think well of that and think well about how I played last season.”
Knowing that a job is there to earn, Luukkonen can’t wait to get at it.
“Of course it’s exciting, and you want to be your best once camp starts. So I’m really excited about it,” Luukkonen said.
Anderson is 40-years-old and has played 18 years in the NHL. Luukkonen is looking forward to learning from him this upcoming season.
“He has seen a lot and has played a lot of hockey in the NHL, so I think it’s really nice to have a guy like that on the team,” he said.
The Sabres will play in their Prospect Challenge on Friday, Sept. 17 and Saturday, Sept. 18. Goalie prospect Erik Portillo is at the University of Michigan, while Devon Levi is at Northeastern University. Both players will not be in attendance, so there's a chance Luukkonen will see action in those games.
The roster has not been announced yet.