Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is in the midst of his first full professional season at just the ripe young age of 20-years-old and what an impression he’s making while working his way through Buffalo Sabres organization.
After being named the OHL’s MVP and top goaltender last season, Luukkonen joined the Amerks for their regular season finale in Belleville back on Apr. 14. His professional debut turned about to be a memorable one, as Luukkonen finished with 34 saves and a .941 save percentage to close out the 2018-19 campaign with his first career win.
Since that night in mid-April last year, Luukkonen underwent double hip surgery, began his first full pro season with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones and finally got recalled to rejoin the Amerks roster again this past week.
“I spent a little bit of time here before the season and the end of last year. It was nice to know the guys before coming here and I’m excited to come here and get to play in the AHL and see where I’m at,” stated Luukkonen earlier this week upon his recall back to the Flower City.
WATCH: UKKO-PEKKA LUUKKONEN AFTER THURSDAY'S PRACTICE
Serving as the Cyclones primary backstop to begin 2019-20, Luukkonen already has a number of accolades under his belt. Not only has the 6-foot-5 netminder started off the season with a 12-5-3-0 record, but he also ranks third in the ECHL with a 2.12 goals-against average and was named as Cincinnati’s lone representative for the upcoming 2020 ECHL All-Star Classic.
November faired to be Luukkonen’s best month to date as he was awarded the ECHL Goaltender of the Month. After compiling a 6-2-1-0 record with a 1.88 goals-against average, Luukkonen went on to sport a .925 save percentage and accumulated two shutouts in his second full month of professional play.
There is no question as to how excited the team and fans are to see Luukkonen back in Rochester getting repetition at a more advanced level. Heading into this weekend, the Amerks are set for their second and final three-in-three action of the season, which seems to present the perfect opportunity for Luukkonen to make a start.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR AFTER THURSDAY'S PRACTICE
“We’re going to start him on Friday night,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “We think it’s a good idea to get him starting here at home and get him acclimated here. It’s nice and he’s definitely deserved this opportunity,” said Taylor when asked if Luukkonen was expected to see time in the crease.
For now, though, Luukkonen is going about his every day at The Blue Cross Arena like it were any other day. He’s taking in whatever he can from fellow goaltenders Andrew Hammond and Jonas Johansson while spending extra time out on the ice after practice to make sure that he’s able to adjust to the speed and shots at the next level preparing for the games that lie ahead.
When asked about how excited he was to get things going tomorrow night, Luukkonen’s answer was simple and showed that he’s ready to take on the game at the next level.
“Well of course every game there’s nerves and you’re a little nervous about the game, but I think that’s a good thing to have that excitement. For me to get to play here in the AHL, it’s a really nice achievement for me.”