Few players on the Buffalo Sabres are more polarizing than Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, whose up-and-down 2022-23 season has the fanbase in a heated debate.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s 2022-23 season was one giant pyramid. When goaltender Eric Comrie went down with an injury, the Buffalo Sabres recalled Luukkonen, and he struggled over his first few games.
However, the rookie goaltender improved, and he went on a tear throughout the second half of December and January. His efforts culminated with Rookie of the Month honors, showing everyone he’s capable of playing in the NHL.
Then, Luukkonen’s play faltered once more, and the Sabres mainly sat him in favor of the newly-signed Devon Levi. His numbers also weren’t inspiring, with a 0.406 quality starts percentage, an 0.891 save percentage, and a 3.61 GAA. Ironically, Luukkonen finished the season 17-11-4, meaning the Sabres often scored just enough to make his win-loss record look good, as opposed to things occurring the other way around.
But his poor stats shouldn’t mean fans need to give up on him after he appeared in 46 measly contests throughout his career. And unless there is an unforeseen trade that involves him, they can’t give up, because he will factor in as the Blue and Gold’s 1B.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will be an integral part of the Buffalo Sabres
Let’s be honest with ourselves: There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of NHL players who struggled in their first full season, or in Luukkonen’s case, basically their first full season with their respective team, only to enjoy at least a serviceable career. Now that Luukkonen has one NHL season behind him, making the leap in Year 2 is always a possibility.
And best yet, Luukkonen will have a better defensive rotation in front of him with Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton joining the unit. With better all-around defense, Luukkonen will have much-needed help, and that could go a long way in his performance this season.
He also had another offseason to refine his technique, the most pressing of which was his positioning – especially his glove positioning. Further honing his game, plus the experience he gained playing at the NHL level last season, will more than help him improve in 2023-24.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)