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Luukkonen named OHL's Most Outstanding Player of the Year

Finnish goaltender becomes first European import player to win award

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

UKKO-PEKKA LUUKKONEN

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen speaks with Brian Duff after winning the OHL's Most Outstanding Player award

  • 04:52 •

Buffalo Sabres goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been named the recipient of the Ontario Hockey League's Red Tilson Trophy, awarded annually to the league's Most Outstanding Player. 

Luukkonen, who was drafted by the Sabres in the second round (54th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, completed his first season with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League in 2018-19, posting a 38-11-2-2 record in 53 appearances, leading the league in in both wins (38) and shutouts (6). He was also named the Goaltender of the Year.

He also finished second and third among all OHL netminders with a .920 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average, respectively, while his 38 wins set a franchise record for the Wolves, who advanced to the postseason for the second time in three years following a second-place finish in the OHL's Central Division.

Luukkonen becomes the sixth goaltender to win the award and the first member of the Wolves to be honored in 40 years since Mike Foligno was the club's first award recipient back in 1979. The Finnish netminder is the first European import player to be recognized.

Tweet from @OHLHockey: Congrats @ukkopekkaluukko!@Sudbury_Wolves goaltender and @BuffaloSabres prospect voted 2019 Most Outstanding #OHL Player of the Year and prestigious Red Tilson Trophy recipient.DETAILS: https://t.co/Oz3QzmoKrz pic.twitter.com/Bku7L38JYL

The 6-foot-5, 212-pound netminder compiled a 4-3 record with a 3.27 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in eight playoff games for Sudbury as well. 

"I am so honored to have been named the Red Tilson Award winner," Luukkonen said in a statement. "There are so many great players in the OHL who could have won this award and I am humbled to have been chosen. I want to thank the Sudbury Wolves organization for giving me a chance to play. I want to especially thank my teammates, Owner Dario Zulich, GM Rob Papineau, and my coaches, including goaltender coach Alain Valiquette and trainer Dan Buckland, for everything they have done for me."

Luukonen made his professional debut in the Rochester Americans' regular-season finale on April 14, making 32 saves to earn his first AHL win.

He underwent successful hip surgery in late April and is expected to make a full recovery within the next six months. 

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Voting was conducted by OHL writers and broadcasters at the conclusion of the regular season. 

Former Sabres who have won the award include Foligno, Gilbert Perreault (1969-70), Doug Gilmour (1982-83), Brian Campbell (1998-99) and Cody Hodgson (2008-09).

The award is presented in honor of Albert "Red" Tilson, who was killed in action in Europe during World War II. Tilson was the OHA scoring champion for the 1942-43 season after scoring 19 goals and 38 assists for 57 points in 22 games with the Oshawa Generals.

The Red Tilson Trophy winner is the OHL's nominee for Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year presented at the CHL Awards Ceremony on Saturday, May 25 during the 2019 Memorial Cup in Halifax. Luukkonen will be formally presented with the Red Tilson Trophy at the OHL's Awards Ceremony on June 5 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

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