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Luukkonen’s Future Undetermined

Will the goalie stay in North America or play in Europe?

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has several options for his future.

Right now, he’s not sure where he’ll be playing when fall comes - but that’s okay.

The 2017 draft pick could go back to Europe and play in Finland, but he could also stay in North America. The OHL’s Sudbury Wolves drafted Luukkonen in the CHL Import Draft earlier this week.

It’s expected that the Sabres will help Luukkonen make the decision.

“We had a brief meeting with him [Friday],” said Sabres assistant GM Randy Sexton. “Seamus Kotyk [Sabres goaltending development coach] spent a lot of time with him. They have a very tight relationship.”

“We’re going to meet... to make sure we find the right situation,” Sexton added.

Luukkonen, 19, called it ‘a big thing’ to get selected in the CHL Import Draft. He was picked third-overall by the Wolves.

“Ukko-Pekka is a world-class goalie who has been a world champion and was the highest drafted European goalie in the 2017 NHL Draft,” said Wolves GM Rob Papineau. “A very athletic goalie who the Buffalo Sabres are very high on as a player and as a person.”

“In a year where import goalies were eligible again, he is the best and he deserves to be the first goalie selected,” Papineau added.

Whether or not he heads to Sudbury in the fall is still to be determined.

“We’ll talk with the agents, Steve Greeley and Seamus Kotyk, and see what’s best for me,” Luukkonen said, reflecting Sexton’s comments.

“They’ve drafted me, but we’ll see,” he added of the Wolves.

Luukkonen recently signed his first NHL contract with the Sabres, something he called a ‘huge honor.’

He got a taste of the hockey-crazed Buffalo during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships.

“It was a great experience to play here in Buffalo, in front of the fans,” he said. “It was great to see the city in the winter. Beautiful, great experience.”

This is Luukkonen’s second year at development camp after Buffalo drafted him 54th overall in 2017. Having that experience, he said, has made this camp much easier.

“[Miska] Kukkonen is my roommate,” Luukkonen said. “I see a lot of me last year in him. There’s a lot of excitement, just getting drafted. You see a lot of the just-drafted guys so nervous here.”

“You learn a lot the first time,” he said. “You’re not here to show off, you’re here to learn.”

Luukkonen spent most of this past season with LeKi, where he put up a .909 save percentage and 2.92 GAA. If he doesn’t wind up in Sudbury, that is his likely destination.