Thursday, May 9, 2019

Luukkonen named OHL Most Outstanding Player

After winning a World Junior gold medal and earning a spot on the tournament All-Star Team, and later being named the Ontario Hockey League Goaltender of the Year, a top Sabres prospect will need to make room in his trophy case for yet another piece of hardware.

The Ontario Hockey League announced Thursday that Sudbury Wolves netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been awarded the 2018-19 Red Tilson Trophy as the league's Most Outstanding Player.

You don't always need to draft players out of the Canadian Hockey League, but you can certainly send your prospects there to dominate.

Luukkonen was simply magnificent for the Wolves this season, setting single-season franchise records with 38 wins (t-1st in OHL), six shutouts (1st), and a 2.50 GAA (3rd), all while posting a league-best .920 save% and leading the Northern Ontario club to their first playoff series victory in six years.

Just over two weeks ago, Luukkonen underwent double hip surgery after playing through pain for the entire second half of the season. It would have been easy for him to shut himself down after the World Junior Championship, but Luukkonen didn't quit. The result was his full body of work being rewarded with the league's most prestigious individual honor. His family, teammates, and the Sabres player development staff should be proud of not only his on-ice excellence, but also his perseverance.

Luukkonen, who is the sixth goaltender tabbed for the award since it was first handed out in 1944-45, joins a list of recent Red Tilson Trophy winners that includes Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner, Vincent Trocheck, Alex Debrincat, Ryan Ellis, and Tyler Seguin. Past Sabres prospects to win the award include Brian Campbell (1998-99), Ray Sheppard (1985-86), and John Tucker (1983-84).

While Luukkonen's commitment has paid off to date, the real work begins now. His puck-handling and situational depth have improved since being drafted, and he's being forced to scramble less and less. Moving forward, it's all about remaining composed nightly and consistently meeting the speed challenge of the North American pro game. If his first American Hockey League start served as any indication, it's clear that Luukkonen is a legitimate National Hockey League goaltending prospect.

Following a successful rehabilitation that should see him return to the ice between Halloween and American Thanksgiving, a fair and reasonable road map should see the talented Finn hold the fort down in Rochester through the 2020-21 season before mounting a serious push to earn a full-time NHL job in Buffalo.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Luukkonen undergoes hip procedure

Sabres top goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will be sidelined for at least six months after undergoing double hip surgery Wednesday afternoon.

Chosen 54th overall at the 2017 NHL Draft, Luukkonen recently completed his first season of North American hockey with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, setting single-season franchise records with 38 wins (t-1st in OHL), six shutouts (1st), and a 2.50 GAA (3rd). His .920 save% was best among all league backstops, rounding out an impressive campaign that saw him named a finalist for both the OHL Goaltender of the Year Award and the Red Tilson Trophy as the Most Outstanding Player of the Year.

In between guiding the Wolves to the playoffs, Luukkonen starred for gold-medal winning Finland at the 2019 World Junior Championship to cement his stature as an elite NHL prospect.

It was at the tournament that Luukkonen experienced pain in his hips, and realized the day that many goaltenders are forced to experience, one when they are forced to address the years of friction in their joints, was nearing.

Luukkonen essentially played through injury for the entire second half the season. Practice time was limited in the four months since the World Juniors as he rehabbed his hips and maintained his mental focus on his next start.

While the repeated dropping to the knees for butterfly saves often forces young goaltenders to endure the procedure, the development was still met with mild disappointment by Sabres’ brass, who would have preferred to have Luukkonen available for the Rochester Americans’ American Hockey League playoff run following his victorious 32-save debut on the final day of the regular season.

Instead, the Sabres now must focus on the positive outcome and look forward to Luukkonen returning to game action sometime between Halloween and American Thanksgiving, essentially placing him on the same rehabilitation timeline that current Sabres netminder Linus Ullmark endured after undergoing a similar double-hip operation in April 2015.

A promising physical prospect that has all of the qualities of a driven, coachable asset with an insatiable desire to improve, Luukkonen is expected to play at least one full season in the AHL before taking a run a full-time NHL job. The Sabres will execute their individual development plan regardless of the setback, which now puts two goaltending prospects in the rehab cycle with Jonas Johansson already recovering from successful season-ending surgery in February.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

11/18 Recap: Weissbach rings twice; Bryson on board

Wisconsin freshman Linus Weissbach connected for the second two-goal game of the season Saturday as the Badgers played to a 4-4 tie with Michigan. Weissbach now has five goals this season, which ranks third-most among the Badgers, and 10 total points in 13 games. Weissbach's markers have come with a 25 per cent shooting percentage, good for second-best on the team.

Jacob Bryson connected for his first goal of the year as Providence and Merrimack ended in a 6-6 tie. Bryson has nine points, including a team-best eight helpers, through 12 games.

In Sweden, Victor Olofsson returned from a two-game absence following a hip procedure to score his eighth goal of the year as Frölunda HC downed Örebro HK 3-1. Olofsson's fourth game-winner of the year boosts him to 13 points in 17 games.

More impressive is the fact that Olofsson already has eight goals in 17 games after scoring nine in 51 contests a season ago.

Elsewhere, Brett Murray filled an empty net for his first career goal as Penn State earned the weekend sweep with a 4-2 win at Arizona State. Murray's goal gives him four points in his first dozen games.

Judd Peterson collected an empty-net goal plus an assist, and Will Borgen logged a plus-2 rating as St. Cloud State swept Colorado College with a 5-1 victory. Through 11 games, Peterson has nine points (1+8) while Borgen has eight (1+7).

Casey Mittelstadt picked up an assist as Minnesota completed the non-conference sweep with a 2-1 overtime win over Harvard. Mittlestadt currently ranks third in team scoring with 12 points (4+8) in 13 games.

Casey Fitzgerald posted a season-high seven shots on goal, and Christopher Brown recorded one assist to help Boston College to a 4-1 win at Northeastern. Fitzgerald's nine points (3+6) are tied for third in team scoring, while Brown is right behind him with eight points (4+4).

Max Willman went without a point for the second straight game as Brown was blanked by Princeton 3-0. Willman has a goal and three assists in seven contests.

Philip Nyberg finished minus-1 with one shot on goal as UConn lost to Massachusetts Lowell 1-0. Nyberg has yet to get his two-way game clicking since his return from injury, totaling one assist through six games.

In the SHL, Rasmus Asplund earned an assist for the second consecutive game as Färjestad BK doubled Rögle BK 4-2. Through 20 games, Asplund has captured 11 points (3+8) while averaging 17:06 of work per game.

Coming off a two-assist game on Thursday, Marcus Davidsson was unable to point as Djurgarden IF couldn't get anything going in a 1-0 loss to Karlskrona HK. Davidsson has seven points (1+6) and 13 shots on goal in 17 games.

In Finland, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 39 of 40 shots in LeKi's 3-1 win over SaPKo. The victory moves the 18-year-old to 7-5 on the year with a 3.00 GAA and .910 save%.

Oskari Laaksonen played for 22:09 as Ilves U20 suffered their fifth consecutive loss 3-1 to Sport. Laaksonen has one goal and seven assists in 24 contests. He's played over 20 minutes in all 24 appearances.

In the QMJHL, Vasily Glotov landed just two shots on goal as Shawinigan fell to Acadie-Bathurst 3-1. Glotov has 14 points (9+5) this season, but has just one in his last six games.

In WHL action, Vojtech Budik logged a minus-2 rating as Prince Albert completed their six-game road trip with a 7-0 loss at Spokane. Budik, who has been charged to be a solid stay-at-home defensive presence, has five points (1+4) and 57 shots on goal in 22 games.

In the AHL, Alex Nylander led all Amerks forwards with three shots on goal as Rochester was bounced by Binghamton 5-0.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

11/17 Recap: Mittelstadt scores beauty

Casey Mittelstadt saw his five-game point streak snapped last weekend, but he got back on track Friday with a beautiful goal plus an assist as Minnesota defeated Harvard 4-2. Mittelstadt's second two-point night of the season gives the freshman four goals and seven assists in 12 games to ride along with a team-best 33 shots on goal.

Linus Weissbach recorded a pair of assists as Wisconsin smoked Michigan 7-3. Weissbach now has eight points through 12 games.

Brett Murray recorded his third assist of the year in Penn State's 7-0 shutout of Arizona State. 

Casey Fitzgerald picked up one assist to extend his point streak to five games as Boston College defeated New Hampshire 3-2. Eagles forward Christopher Brown posted a team-high five shots on goal in the victory.

Will Borgen scored his first goal of the year, the game-winner, and added one assist as St. Cloud State rolled past Colorado College 6-1. St. Cloud State senior forward Judd Peterson picked up one assist for his seventh point of the year.

Jacob Bryson finished with an even rating as Providence edged Merrimack 2-1. Bryson has seven assists through his first 11 games.

Max Willman produced four shots on goal as Brown was blanked at Quinnipiac 5-0. Willman has one goal and four points in six games.

Philip Nyberg was scratched for the third-straight game as UConn dropped a 5-2 decision at Massachusetts Lowell.

In the OHL, Cliff Pu bagged a goal and two helpers as London got past Saginaw 4-3 in overtime. Pu has now recorded four consecutive multi-point games.

Vasily Glotov was unable to get anything going in Shawinigan's 5-2 loss to Quebec. At the 20-game mark, Glotov has nine goals and 14 points.

Brandon Hagel went without a point for the second game in a row as Red Deer lost to Kootenay 4-3.

Vojtech Budik finished minus-3 as Prince Albert lost at Tri-City 4-1.

In the AHL, C.J. Smith scored twice as part of a four-point night, while Brendan Guhle and Hudson Fasching added single markers in Rochester's 4-2 win over Hartford. Linus Ullmark made 36 saves to secure the victory.

On Thursday, Marcus Davidsson connected for as pair of assists and a shootout marker as Djurgarden IF came up short 4-3 to Vaxjo.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

11/2-4 Recap: Davidsson makes difference; Pu getting going

Marcus Davidsson broke through the zone with speed Friday and set his brother up for the game-winning goal as Djurgarden got past Farjestad 3-1. After going without a point in his first five games, Davidsson has collected five (1+4) in his last eight.

Rasmus Asplund was unable to point in the loss for Farjestad. Noted for being a complete player, he came away on the wrong end of the battle as he could not take the puck away beneath his own goal line.

In the NCAA, Casey Mittelstadt showed off his hound-ability, stripping a defender and setting up a goal as Minnesota defeated Michigan State 3-1. Mittelstadt has points in seven of the eight games he has appeared in.

Cliff Pu forced overtime with 2:15 left in regulation as London fell to Saginaw 6-5. Pu now has three goals in his last five games.

In the AHL, Brendan Guhle scored his first goal of the season, Hudson Fasching scored for the second game in a row, and Eric Cornel scored a regulation marker and his second consecutive shootout winner as Rochester earned a wild 7-6 victory over Hershey.

Elsewhere, Will Borgen picked up an assist as St. Cloud State defeated Minnesota Duluth 5-3. Judd Peterson also picked up a helper on an empty-net goal.

Christopher Brown secured an empty-net goal plus one assist as Boston College upended Merrimack 3-1. Casey Fitzgerald produced three shots on goal for the winning side.

Philip Nyberg notched an assist and a sparkling plus-4 rating as UConn defeated Vermont 5-1.

Linus Weissbach returned to action after missing last weekend's games with an injury, producing two shots on goal as Wisconsin dropped a 3-2 decision to North Dakota.

Jacob Bryson tied for the team lead with five shots on goal as Providence fell to Boston University 2-0.

Brett Murray contributed one shot on goal in Penn State's 7-4 loss to Mercyhurst.

Max Willman had one shot on goal in Brown's 4-3 loss to Dartmouth.

In the QMJHL, Vasily Glotov did not play as Shawinigan edged Drummondville 4-3.

In the WHL, Vojtech Budik picked up an assist as Prince Albert got past high-octane Swift Current 5-1.

Brandon Hagel saw his career-best eight-game point streak snapped as Red Deer lost at Regina 4-3.

On Wednesday, Hagel tipped home his sixth goal of the year as the Rebels fell to Seattle 4-2.

In Finland, Oskari Laaksonen skated for a team-high 24:50 as Ilves U20 was doubled by the Blues 4-2.

Also from Wednesday, Hudson Fasching scored 17 seconds into play and Eric Cornel notched the shootout winner as Rochester defeated Utica 4-3.

On Thursday, Victor Olofsson recorded three shots on goal in 17:50 of action as Frolunda was defeated by Skelleftea 2-1.

Budik logged a minus-1 rating in Prince Albert's 5-2 loss at Moose Jaw.

Austin Osmanski recorded one shot on goal as Peterborough lost to Sarnia 7-5.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

10/28 Recap: Olofsson heating up; Pu rebounding

Victor Olofsson scored his sixth goal of the year Saturday, the game-winner, as Frolunda blanked Linkoping 4-0. Olofsson is heating up with four goals in his last six games. He has nine points and 33 shots on goal through 14 SHL contests.

Rasmus Asplund notched a pair of assists as Farjestad edged Brynas 2-1. Asplund has points in two straight games, but has gone 11 in a row without a goal.

Marcus Davidsson skated for 11:00 as Djurgarden got past Skelleftea 2-1. Davidsson has four points (1+3) while averaging 10:40 of work through his first 12 games.

Cliff Pu scored for the second consecutive game as London defeated Hamilton 3-2 in a shootout. After a slow start, Pu now has six points in his last four games.

Christopher Brown deflected home his second goal of the year as Boston College was throttled by Denver 6-1. Casey Fitzgerald drew the second assist on the goal to give him sole possession of the team lead in points with five (2+3) through seven games.

Jacob Bryson drew a power-play assist as Providence shut out Boston University 3-0. Bryson leads the Friars with five assists through their first seven contests.

Casey Mittelstadt assisted on the game-winning goal as Minnesota earned the sweep of Clarkson with a 2-1 victory. Mittelstadt has seven points (2+5) through seven games. He has collected a point in six of the seven games he has appeared in.

Max Willman recorded an assist for the second-straight game as Brown was defeated by Yale 5-2.

Philip Nyberg returned from his lower-body injury as UConn lost at Miami 7-1. Nyberg missed the previous six games after suffering the injury on opening night at Maine.

Linus Weissbach missed his second game in a row due to injury as Wisconsin was doubled by St. Lawrence 6-3.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen allowed three goals on 32 shots as LeKi fell to KeuPa HT 4-2.

Oskari Laaksonen skated for 25:11 as Ilves U20 lost to TUTO Hockey 3-2.

Brandon Hagel sat out with an illness as Red Deer defeated Regina 4-3 in overtime.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

10/14 Recap: Davidsson points; Luukkonen back to winning

Here is your quick Saturday recap...

Marcus Davidsson recorded an assist for the second-straight game Saturday as Djurgarden smoked Mora 6-0. The third-line centerman now has points in back-to-back games for the second time in his SHL career.

Eslewhere in Sweden, Rasmus Asplund went without a point for the third game in a row as Farjestad doubled HV 71 4-2.

Victor Olofsson produced three shots on goal as Frolunda defeated Linkoping 3-2.

In Finland, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen mades 33 saves as LeKi downed Roki 5-4. Luukkonen improves to 5-2 with a 3.12 GAA and .909 save%.

In the Finnish Junior "A" league, Oskari Laaksonen logged a minus-1 rating in 23:32 of action as Ilves U20 edged SaiPa 3-2.

In the QMJHL, Vasily Glotov connected for a pair of helpers as Shawinigan got past Victoriaville 4-2. Glotov now has points in consecutive games for the first time this season.

In the OHL, Austin Osmanski picked up an assist as Peterborough defeated Sudbury 6-3.

In the WHL, Brandon Hagel assisted on Red Deer's lone goal in the Rebels' 4-1 loss to Saskatoon.

Vojtech Budik logged a minus-1 rating with two shots on goal as Prince Albert lost to Brandon 5-3.

In the NCAA, Linus Weissbach failed to record a shot on goal as Wisconsin cruised to a 4-1 victory at Merrimack. Weissbach skated on the top line for the first four games of the season, but was bumped down to the second unit in the win.

Judd Peterson assisted on the game-winning goal and Will Borgen provided three shots on goal as St. Cloud State earned the sweep of Alaska Fairbanks with a 5-4 overtime triumph.

In the ECHL, Brycen Martin scored his first goal of the year as Cincinnati opened the season with a 3-2 overtime loss to Kalamazoo. Vaclav Karabacek and Devante Stephens each recorded two shots on goal, while rookie goaltender Jonas Johansson did not dress.

Friday, October 13, 2017

10/12 Recap: Davidsson breaks seal; Hagel surging

Marcus Davidsson picked up his first point of the SHL season, notching the primary assist on a goal scored by his brother Jonathan as Djurgarden fell to Farjestad 4-2.

With DIF trailing 2-1 in the middle frame, Davidsson took a long stretch pass at the FBK blue line and quickly connected with his brother streaking to the right post to tie the game.

In addition to the assist, Davidsson also won seven of his eight face-offs while skating for a season-high 12:52.

Farjestad centerman Rasmus Asplund fired one shot on goal for the winning side. Through eight games, Asplund has collected three goals, eight points and a plus-9 rating.

Elsewhere in Sweden, Victor Olofsson produced three shots on goal as Frolunda fell to HV 71 3-1.

In the WHL, Brandon Hagel racked up three helpers as Red Deer got past Kootenay 5-4. Hagel now has 11 points (3+8) in eight games to become the first Sabres prospect this season to hit the double-digit point barrier.

Cliff Pu extended his season-starting goalless streak to seven games as London was defeated by Windsor 3-1. Pu has recorded just three assists in those seven games.

Austin Osmanski logged one shot on goal and a minus-1 rating as Peterborough edged Kingston 2-1.

On Wednesday, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen started his fourth consecutive game. stopping 42 of 47 shots as LeKi dropped a 5-1 decision to Kiekko-Vantaa. The loss, Luukkonen's first of the season, drops him to 4-1 with a 2.36 GAA and .931 save%.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

9/24 Recap: Hagel stays hot

Brandon Hagel continued his productive opening weekend Sunday, cashing a pair of goals as part of a seven-shot on goal effort as Red Deer came from behind to earn a 5-3 win at Edmonton.

With the Rebels trailing 3-1, Hagel got the comeback juices flowing by potting his second goal of the year with 1:48 remaining in the middle frame.

The top-line winger added an insurance marker into an empty net with 1:07 left on the clock for his fifth point of the weekend.

Going back the end of the 2016-17 regular season and the playoffs, Hagel has scored 19 goals in his last 15 WHL contests.

In the OHL, Cliff Pu recorded two shots on goal as London ran out of gas in a 5-1 loss to Sault Ste. Marie. Pu, who won 17 of 24 draws in defeat, was playing his third game in three days following the Sabres' Friday preseason tilt in Toronto and his Knights debut on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Vasily Glotov produced five shots on goal but was unable to notch a point as Shawinigan was dealt a 4-3 overtime loss to Victoriaville.

In Finland Jr. A action, Oskari Laaksonen logged a plus-1 rating in 22:23 of work as Ilves skated to a 3-2 triumph over HIFK.

9/23 Recap: Olofsson powers PP; Hagel comes out hot

Victor Olofsson continued to exercise his power-play prowess Saturday, notching a goal and an assist in the opening frame as Frölunda dropped a 7-4 decision to Färjestad BK.

Olofsson got it going in the game's eighth minute with a short feed for a primary helper to make it a 1-0 game.

The assist was great, but Olofsson's wrist shot is his money maker. He put that on display with 4:48 left in the period for his first goal of the SHL season.

Rasmus Asplund picked up an assist on the second of two Farjestad empty-netters, giving him points in all three games thus far. His four points are currently tied for fourth among SHL skaters.

Asplund, who logged a season-high 20:17 of work for his fifth-career 20-plus minute effort, drew the attention of frustrated FBK defenders later in the third period. After taking a cross-check to the back and hitting the ice, Asplund got into a little skirmish at the end of the shift at the FBK to walk away with a roughing minor.

After netting three goals and four points in three games with Djurgårdens IF's junior squad, Marcus Davidsson was recalled to the big club in a 2-1 loss to Luleå HF. Davidsson skated for 9:19 while occupying the fourth-line center role.

In Finland, Oskari Laaksonen notched one assist and produced 11 shot attempts in 26:44 of action as Ilves U20 dropped a 2-1 decision to Jokerit.

In the WHL, Brandon Hagel cashed a one-timer for his first goal of the year and added two helpers as Red Deer opened the season with a 7-3 victory over Edmonton.

After producing two primary assists in the opening frame, Hagel (#22) hit for the game-winning goal with 6:23 remaining in the middle frame to complete the three point night.

Vojtech Budik logged a minus-1 rating as Prince Albert lost to Moose Jaw 7-3.

In the OHL, Cliff Pu picked up a pair of helpers including one of the overtime winner to propel London to a 3-2 victory over Saginaw.

Also from the OHL, defenseman Austin Osmanski (-1) contributed two shots on goal in Mississauga's 5-2 loss at Kingston.