Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen posted spotty numbers in 2022-23, but that won’t be the case in 2023-24 as he figures to be the 1B.
Despite finishing with a record of 17-11-2, it’s easy to argue the Buffalo Sabres won hockey games despite having Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen lining up between the pipes. In some cases, Luukkonen was remarkable, but he often put up so-so numbers in a best-performance scenario.
The end result? A measly 0.891 save percentage, a 3.61 GAA, and a poor quality starts percentage of 0.406 to end what was basically his first full season at the NHL level. Luukkonen’s poor play culminated with the Sabres benching him for the most part in favor of Devon Levi during the final push to try and break their playoff drought, as the former Northeastern Huskies netminder consistently put up better performances.
This year, unless Eric Comrie outplays Luukkonen in training camp and in the preseason, the 24-year-old will factor in as the 1B behind Levi. Knowing his role, this should mean less pressure for Luukkonen, who was forced to step in for an injured Comrie last season and take on a 1A role with 41-year-old Craig Anderson playing on a pitch count.
Luukkonen posts better-than-expected numbers with Buffalo Sabres in 2023-24
Since we’re going bold here, let’s say that Luukkonen posts way better than expected numbers this season. In 2021-22, in just nine appearances, Luukkonen recorded a 0.917 save percentage, but this year, that number increases to an even 0.920 as I’ll estimate he makes roughly 30 appearances as the 1B.
We will also see his GAA hit the 2.70 level, which will be a career best for the goaltender. And to make things even bolder, I’m rolling with a 0.600 quality starts percentage.
While this is part of the 75 In 75 series that constantly talks about bold predictions, it’s also more realistic than you may believe. For starters, we know the Buffalo Sabres will have a better defensive rotation in 2023-24, and a more physical one.
Luukkonen has basically a full season of experience, so the game will get slower for him in Season 2 of his NHL career. And as I implied earlier, the fact that Devon Levi should be the 1A will take hordes of pressure off of Luukkonen’s shoulders, which could lead him to finding his niche as a 1B in this league. If all of the above come to light, the so-called bold prediction for Luukkonen is a realistic one.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)