Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (second round, 2017) was granted a rare game off upon returning to his junior club in Sudbury after a gold medal run with Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championship in January.
His coach, longtime NHL forward Cory Stillman, shares what happened next.
"I asked when do you want to play?" Stillman said by phone on Thursday. "He's like, 'Now.' He's fit into our community. The fit here has been great. They chant his name and for a young kid, that's got to be something special."
Luukkonen's rookie season in the OHL has been a success by any measure. He leads the league in goals-against average (2.40), save percentage (.921) and wins (28). But one of the greatest strides in his development, according to Stillman, may be the workload he's taken on for the third-place Wolves.
Luukkonen has appeared in 37 games for Sudbury, in addition to the six he played for Finland at World Juniors. That number should only grow with 18 regular-season games remaining on the schedule and a likley playoff berth to follow. By comparison, he played 25 pro games in Finland last season.
"We play a lot of games here," Stillman said. "We play 68 games in a season. He's played in almost all of them. He knows he's going to play. Often, we play Wednesday, Friday, Sunday. He gets into a rhythm, he plays every other day which I think sometimes is a pro mentality.
"This year compared to last year, he knows he's a number one goalie. He knows he's going to start."
It's a job that he's embraced, by all accounts. Stillman said he's seen Luukkonen's confidence grow over the course of the season, something that was apparent in his performance at World Juniors. He stopped a Maxime Comtois penalty shot in overtime of the semifinal against Canada and a breakaway from Jack Hughes - the presumed No. 1 pick in this year's NHL Draft - in the Gold Medal Game vs. Team USA.
He has the physical tools, too. Says Stillman of Luukkonen's 6-foot-4, 196-pound frame: "If you look at the size of the NHL goalies, they're getting bigger and bigger. He fills the net. When he's on his knees, his shoulders are still above the crossbar."
Luukkonen is expected to begin next season in Rochester, but he's embraced his time in Sudbury. He's volunteered his spare time at a local Finnish retirement community. At the rink, Stillman says he's fit in as another one of the guys.
"I think you can see him growing," Stillman said. "He loves to win. He wants to compete. For me, watching a kid like this, he has a pro mentality. He wants to get to the NHL, and he wants to be the starting goalie."
Davidsson stays hot
Make it four points (3+1) in five games for Marcus Davidsson (second round, 2017), who tallied his seventh goal of the season in a 2-1 Djurgarden loss to Lulea on Saturday.
Davidsson found room at the backdoor to bury a crossing feed in the second period:
The third-year SHL forward now has 20 points (7+13) in 39 games, one shy of the career-high he established in the same amount of games last season.
BC advances to Beanpot final
Christopher Brown (sixth round, 2014) and Casey Fitzgerald (third round, 2016) will play for a Beanpot championship after Boston College won its semifinal matchup with Harvard, 2-1, on Monday.
The Beanpot is an annual tournament among four of Boston's Division I hockey programs: Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. Brown and Fitzgerald tallied two shots apiece in the win over Harvard.
Boston College will face Northeastern in the final next Monday at 7:30 p.m.
|Skater ||Position ||Team (League) ||GP ||G ||A ||PTS |
|Christopher Brown ||F ||Boston College (NCAA) ||25 ||7 ||4 ||11 |
|Jacob Bryson ||D ||Providence (NCAA) ||28 ||4 ||16 ||20 |
|Ivan Chukarov ||D ||Massachusetts (NCAA) ||23 ||1 ||2 ||3 |
|Marcus Davidsson ||F ||Djuragardens (SHL) ||39 ||7 ||13 ||20 |
|Casey Fitzgerald ||D ||Boston College (NCAA) ||25 ||0 ||9 ||9 |
|Vasily Glotov ||F ||Cincinnati (ECHL) ||40 ||8 ||19 ||27 |
|Miska Kukkonen ||D ||Lukko (Liiga) ||3 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Oskari Laaksonen ||D ||Ilves (Liiga) ||37 ||3 ||15 ||18 |
|Linus Lindstrand Cronholm ||D ||IK Pantern (Allsvenskan) ||30 ||2 ||7 ||9 |
|Brett Murray ||F ||Youngstown (USHL) ||39 ||22 ||27 ||49 |
|Philip Nyberg ||D ||UConn (NCAA) ||26 ||0 ||2 ||2 |
|Matej Pekar ||F ||Barrie (OHL) ||33 ||14 ||22 ||36 |
|Mattias Samuelsson ||D ||Western Michigan (NCAA) ||24 ||4 ||6 ||10 |
|Linus Weissbach ||F ||Wisconsin (NCAA) ||16 ||4 ||11 ||15 |
|Maxwell Willman ||F ||Boston University (NCAA) ||25 ||1 ||5 ||6 |
|William Worge Kreu ||D ||Linkoping J20 (SuperElit) ||16 ||0 ||1 ||1 |
|Goaltender ||Team (League) ||GP ||W ||L ||OTL ||SOL ||GAA ||SV% ||SO |
|Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen ||Sudbury (OHL) ||37 ||28 ||7 ||1 ||1 ||2.40 ||.921 ||5 |