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With Three Healthy Goalies, UPL Likely Heading to Rochester Soon

Dr. HockeyLove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and (Try To) Love The Tank and Develop Model

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Easy story here: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dustin Tokarski is returning from his COVID infection any day now. Recently acquired Malcolm Subban is activated from injured reserve. Down trodden yet premier goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, UPL for short, is taking the heat in the meantime. Just about three healthy and active goalies up in Buffalo. Who goes down?

Easy answer, UPL.

The young but surprisingly been in the organization for awhile now netminer was deemed no higher than third on pre-season goalie rankings and his time in Rochester has done nothing to say the team was wrong. Even Aaron Dell and Malcolm Subban were called up before UPL was. Easy article, padding word count now.

Oh, what’s that? UPL is already 18th in the league in goals saved above average (GSAA). He’s one of six goalies batting a thousand in quality starts (QS%). How could you turn down this 4 game hot streak? No worries there, Kevyn already gave us the answer this summer:

July

”We’re excited about the players we added there in net, and it also gives us the opportunity (for competition),” Adams said in July. “We don’t want to box players out in any position. We want to make sure that guys like UPL, when they’re ready, they have the opportunity, but we have competition there.”

September

”We’ll continue to have discussions,” said Adams. “You keep your eye on guys that maybe could be available at the end of training camp and we’ll evaluate that, but we feel good with the players and where we got to. I want to make it clear that we have no timeline on a young player like UPL. If we feel that he’s ready to go, we won’t hold him back. But everything has to be earned. We’ll see how that plays out.”

Alrighty, the man is staying. No one, especially not a Malcolm Subban or a Dustin Tokarski, is going to be “boxing out” UPL. And there’s no need to even think that UPL isn’t “ready to go” after these results. UPL has undoubtedly “earned” his starts in Buffalo, as head coach Don Granato as rode him for four straight and a fifth tonight.

Kevyn’s shown us these aren’t just empty words, right? We heard today that defenseman Robert Hagg is out month to month and with Will Butcher being ever as deserving as a scratch-level defenseman, Kevyn is just about to announce the call-up for stud defenseman who wowed in training camp and has been wowing in Rochester since returning from injury, Mattias Samuelsson. Or, maybe Oskarki Laaksonen, the right handed prospect, just in case we wanted to stick with opposite handed pairings. Oh, Casey Fitzgerald instead.

We’ve had our fair share of injuries to the forward group, too. On top of that, John Hayden is currently racking up a hot one point in 21 games with Bjork just ahead with 5 in 26 games. As a matter of fact, we again see one of our lines currently unable to do much, centered by Cody Eakin. Well, we got some on fire wingers and a stud prospect centerman, surely they’ve taken the ride west on the 90 to see what’s going on, right? Oh, not yet. Mark Jankowski instead? Oh, ok.

We’ve been through this before. A prospect playing too long in the minors never hurts development, but calling them up, for any duration, may. Or they may not fit a role, or something. It’s hard to believe any of this when the real answer is, why burn up a year of Quinn and Peterka’s entry level contract when we want the team to be as close to terrible as possible?

History is repeating itself here, and I can’t seem to be OK with the tank this time around. As I get older, I don’t even think it was right back then. The fans, or the team, can’t get small victories like enjoying a real starting goalie in Buffalo, one we can get excited about beyond this season? This decision is coming any day now, and I can’t seem to get excited thinking the Sabres have found their goalie. To do that, I guess I have to watch some Big Ten hockey.