Luukkonen named Goaltender of the Year, as expected
by Randy Pascal
Not that it will come as any great surprise to ardent fans of the Sudbury Wolves, but netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was named as the
OHL Goaltender of the Year earlier this week.
The #3 overall selection in the CHL Import Draft last summer would top the league in save percentage (.920), wins (38 - tied with Stephen
Dillon - Niagara Ice Dogs) and shutouts (6 - tied with Dhillon), suiting up in 53 games with the Wolves, despite missing a two week plus stretch while
backstopping Team Finland to a gold medal at the World Juniors Hockey Championship.
Luukkonen, a 2nd round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2018, would finish second only to the Ottawa 67's tandem of Michael DiPietro
(2.40) and Cedric Andrée (2.48) in goals against average, posting a GAA of 2.50 behind a Sudbury blue-line core that regularly included two rookies
and a sophomore.
"The impact he has had on our players and our organization, on what it takes to be the best and to be a pro, will remain with our team for years in the
future," noted Wolves VP Hockey Operations & General Manager Rob Papineau.
"His dedication, his focus and his preparation, both on and off the ice, are second to none. His support of the community of Greater Sudbury and the
significant Greater Sudbury Finnish population, as well as the time he made available for young fans, was remarkable."
Though Luukkonen celebrated his 20th birthday on March 9th, and is therefore eligible to return as an overager next year, the possibility appears more
than excessively unlikely.
Not only has Luukkonen already made an impressive AHL debut with the Rochester Americans, turning aside 32-shots in helping the Buffalo affiliate
register a 4-2 win over the Belleville Senators in the regular season finale for the Amerks, but he also underwent successful hip surgery in April.
According to a release from Rochester on the Sabres' website, Luukkonen is expected to be out of action for roughly six months, though he is expected to
make a full and complete recovery.
Despite an impressive tradition between the pipes that has included the likes of Jim Bedard, Don Beaupré and Sebastian Dahm, Luukkonen is
the first goaltender in Sudbury franchise history to caature this award.
Previous winners have included Jordan Binnington (2012-13 - Owen Sound), Mackenzie Blackwood (2015-16 - Barrie), Andrew Raycroft
(1999-2000 - Kingston) and the late Ray Emery (2001-02 - Soo Greyhounds).