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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Caputo

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen keeping tabs on Sudbury Wolves from Buffalo

Brandon Caputo

Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports


Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen only spent one season up in Sudbury with the Wolves upon being selected 3rd overall in the 2018 CHL Import Draft, but the now National Hockey League goaltender in the midst of his second full-time season (fourth season in total) with the Buffalo Sabres still keeps a close eye on his former mates up north in the Nickel City.



A season of accolades

Credit: Gino Donato/Sudbury Wolves


The Finnish-born Luukkonen had a banner season individually during 2018-19, where he accumulated many accolades including:

  • OHL Best Save Percentage (.920)

  • OHL First All-Star Team

  • OHL Goaltender of the Year

  • OHL Most Outstanding Player (Red Tilson Trophy)

  • OHL Most Shutouts (6)

  • U20 WJC All-Star Team

  • U20 WJC Gold Medal for Team Finland


However, the Sabres second round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft is proud of being able to represent the city of Sudbury, despite his junior hockey career in the Ontario Hockey League only lasting for a short time after coming over from his home country of Finland.


"It was one of the best years of my hockey career; I have many warm memories up there like playing well in the OHL and winning the World Juniors that year was amazing" said Luukkonen. "I had a great billet family which made it even better for me, I owe a lot to those guys, that family, and the Wolves organization as everyone was so good to me in Sudbury. It was such a special time for me."


The now 24-year old goaltender who hasn't played in the OHL since that 2018-19 season says he's still keeping tabs on his old club who currently sit in first place in a tight Eastern Conference battle for playoff seeding.


"I have notifications on my phone every time the Wolves play and I see how they do" Luukkonen said laughingly. "I'm keeping up with them, it's cool to see, it's a really passionate hockey market in Sudbury and to see them doing well is great to hear. There's a lot of good people up there and they deserve the success that's coming their way."



Crossing paths with next generation of Wolves

Credit: Sudbury.com


Luukkonen talked about being able to follow along with his junior hockey club when he has free time and was happy to present Hamburg, NY native Quentin Musty with his jersey upon being selected first overall by Sudbury in the 2021 OHL draft.


"There's a couple of guys who are playing really well right now like Quentin Musty, who I actually presented with his Wolves jersey when he was drafted first overall to Sudbury" said Luukkonen. "It's awesome to see them doing well and Quentin specifically."


The now 18-year old Musty, a big bodied and gifted winger, was selected in the first round 26th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and is having his best OHL season to date with Sudbury accumulating 62 points in 36 games on the first place Wolves.



Welcoming heavy workload as pro hockey preparation

Micheline V/ Rochester Americans



Luukkonen also spoke to the experience he gained at the OHL level being able to play so many games in such a short amount of time, on top of the demands of the travel schedule; that has helped him as he transitioned to the American Hockey League and now the pressures of the NHL.


"One of the big things for me was that I was playing very frequently. I faced a heavy workload and saw what it was going to be like was good for me in my development as a goaltender" Luukkonen said. "When you're playing in junior hockey it's really serious and everyone wants to do well. The atmosphere in the locker rooms, we're still kind of teenagers so it's kind of a good place to learn how things work and it's easier to make the jump from there to the AHL like I did."



Lasting memories in a Wolves uniform

Credit: chl.ca/ohl-wolves


While posting astonishing numbers in his one-year with Sudbury including a 38-11-2 record, 2.50 goals against average, and a .920 save percentage, Luukkonen has lasting memories other than his personal on-ice achievements within the Sudbury Community Arena.


"I remember the wolf of course but it's just fun when you're the home team and warming up in between the fans being so close" Luukkonen said. "There's not necessarily a place to warmup privately like you get up here in the NHL, so you know everyone and it's a tight community even within the people at or around the rink."


"Also being an old school rink it has character to it and the fans are on top of you. When you play there it's awesome and when you do well it's a great feeling. I'd hate to be an away player there but I have a lot of great memories from my time in the Sudbury community that I'll cherish forever, even now as a pro hockey player" Luukkonen concluded.



Maturation as a full-time NHL goaltender

Credit: USA TODAY Sports


Now on pace to shatter his career-high of games started this season with Buffalo, their head coach Don Granato spoke about the growth in Luukkonen's game and the healthy competition he's built with the team's other young goaltender Devon Levi.


"Ukko has been been amazing; the trajectory and the progression for him has been significant" said Granato.

"It's no coincidence that we had great mentorship for him with Craig Anderson over the last few seasons but once we brought Devon in the fold you could see that youthful competition, it's something that's pushed both of those guys to be the best versions of themselves."


The Sabres bench boss ended by saying that the now 24-year old Luukkonen is coming into his own as more of a veteran despite his young age and only in his second full-time NHL season. This due to the aforementioned Levi arriving on the scene as a capable 22-year old, for what the team hopes will be an elevated goalie room as they move into the foreseeable future with their two youngsters manning Buffalo's crease.


"Now Ukko is looking at someone who is a pretty good goaltender in Levi and that's really helped push him to see himself as a more veteran guy now with more experience" Granato said in closing. "He has been able to seize that because of the work he's put in prior so it's nice to see from a coaching perspective."

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