When will we see Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen?

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was reassigned to the taxi squad yesterday, April 17.

The Sabres have an overall record of 12-26-7 and are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. The Sabres have allowed 151 total goals which tie them for third in the NHL and second-most in their division. (Columbus has 151, Philadelphia has 161, and Ottawa has 163 goals against)

Linus Ullmark looked to be the saving grace for winning games, but he has been out with a lower-body injury. Ullmark had a .919 save percentage through 12 games played, which ranked 20th in all NHL goalies at the time. If you excluded goalies with five or fewer games played, Ullmark ranked 13.

  • Linus Ullmark:  20 GP   9-6-3 record, 2.63 GAA,  .917 SV%
  • Carter Hutton:  13 GP   1-10-1 record, 3.43 GAA,  .884 SV%
  • Dustin Tokarski:  9 GP    2-5-2 record,  3.15 GAA,  .914 SV%/

Since Ullmark and Hutton are likely to not return this season, give Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen a few starts. On April 17 he was activated to the taxi squad. Luukkonen is 21-years-old, has 14 games played, a 7-5-2 record, with a 3.60 GAA and a .888 SV% with the Americans.

There are a few ways to look at this move. The first and most optimistic is that it works out perfectly and he leads the team in the right direction. Back in 2019, St. Louis called up Jordan Binnington and he led them to the cup.

I’m not saying Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is going to single-handedly get the Sabres into the Stanley Cup or let alone the playoffs, but the other young players that have been brought up this year have added to the success of the team.

  • Arttu Ruotsalainen: 23 years old,  1 goal in 5 games
  • Casey Mittelstadt : 22 years old,  14 pts in 29 games
  • Dylan Cozens:    20 years old,    10 pts in 29 games
  • Tage Thompson:  23 years old,   9 pts in 27 games
  • Rasmus Asplund:  23 years old,   8 pts in 17 games/

The young players are where the focus should be. There is a tremendous amount of talent within just these five payers. Making the playoffs isn’t a possibility anymore and having a season where these players can get the feel of the game without any pressure is a bonus.

The Sabres are playing to improve the team instead of hunting for points which is beneficial to player development.

This could be the perfect time for Luukkonen. The coaching staff and management need to let Luukkonen know this is purely for him to feel the speed of the NHL, and gauge if he could be ready.

Also, if he gets a start it should not only be one game. Give him at least three games, if he gets shelled on his first start don't send him to Rochester with a bitter taste in his mouth. Keep him in Buffalo and let him get 180 minutes of NHL action. Maybe he already has what it takes and just needs the opportunity to show he has it.

Well, what if Luukkonen does sub-par, not terrible, but clearly he will not be leading the team anytime soon? Then he goes back to being the starter in Rochester and enjoys the fact that he played a few games in the NHL. It could be a driving force, having a taste of the big leagues and wanting more.

Luukkonen was drafted by Buffalo in the second round (54 overall) in 2017. He led the OHL in both wins, (38) and shutouts, (6) and was named OHL’s MVP and top goaltender in 2018- 2019. Luukkonen set a franchise record for the Sudbury Wolves with 38 wins. Internationally, he won gold at the 2019 World Junior Championship.