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Annual expectations thread 2022/23: #1 Ukko-Pekka Lukkonnen


dudacek
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What do you expect from: #1 Ukko-Pekka Lukkonnen?  

56 members have voted

  1. 1. Which of these best describes what you think the Sabres will get from Lukkonnen this year?

    • More uneven play in Rochester, effectively ending any hopes of him being a significant part of the Sabres future
    • Solid play in Rochester and in his NHL appearances, putting him solidly in the NHL picture for 2023/24
    • He will clearly outplay his competition and become the Sabres #1 by season’s end


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It’s back, to fill those dog days of hockey talk leading up to training camp: our annual chance to test the temperature about what Sabrespace thinks of the roster. 

A lot of things have changed since last summer, but one thing that has not is the number of players who have some large question marks hanging over their heads.

Starting this earlier this year because I should have last year. I will try to post a new thread every day or two leading up to camp and the start of the season.

***

Despite coming off some iffy numbers in Rochester, Lukkonnen started the year as the team’s top prospect in net and with an open road to the NHL, with only the likes of Aaron Dell and Dustin Tokarski standing in his way.

He whiffed badly, following up a bad training camp with a series of poor October games for the Amerks.

He started to turn things around in November, and a .932 save percentage in 6 December games in Buffalo rekindled hope that he was finally ready to take a step.

But, as he seems to always do, he got hurt, was uneven again in his Amerks return, showed improvement, then got hurt again, missing the Amerks playoff run.

https://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=196751

Kevyn Adams still professes faith in UPL’s character and ability, but has to be growing frustrated with his inconsistencies and lack of availability. He’s only played 70 games in Rochester over the past 3 seasons and the team seems to want to see him carry the load as a #1 over an extended period there before making a call on his future.

What do you expect from him this year?

(Last year’s takes here):

 

Edited by dudacek
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45 minutes ago, Sabres Fan in NS said:

I think he will continue to develop in Rochester with a reasonable look in Buffalo depending on injuries etc ... 25ish games in Buffalo.

He will take strides this year and become a reasonable reliable NHL backup by the end of the season.

Agree.  I didn't vote because I don't know if there is a choice that says that.

Anything more from him will be a pleasant surprise.

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I don't see him staying healthy, the GT position puts significant strain on those pesky muscles/tendons and ligaments and he's shown to be unable to overcome these lingering issues. These types of injuries often reinjure easier and have a bit of a genetic component as well. 

Hope I'm wrong, but I'm at a low confidence level. 

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He plays better in Buffalo than in Rochester, but that isn't a voting option.  If he gets called up, he'll do okay-or-better here.  If he doesn't, he will do okay-or-worse in Rochester.

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I wish I had any faith that UPL is the long awaited answer between the pipes but I just don’t. I think he’s a career backup AT BEST and that’s only if he’s not injured and available for backup duty. 

I’d love for him to make a liar out me though. 

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I wish we had insight into his give a ***** level. I think he has the talent but I don't know if he has enough give a ***** in him. 

If he wanted to, he  could have recognized the situation and spent the offseason getting into the best shape of his life.

If he wanted to he would know that theres a time in every young professionals life where they have to put away the cheetos, quit playing the video games all night and learn to sleep and eat right to improve their fitness levels and help guard against injuries.  

If he wanted to, he could understand that It doesn't get any easier from here for him to stake his claim to the starting job in Buffalo.

I expect Comrie to play well and put some heat on him but I think UPL, if he wanted to, could still outplay him slightly by years end. 

My expectation is that UPL is ready to take over the starting job in Buffalo by years end. 

If he wants to. 

 

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I am pessimistic about UPL.  Watching him live near the end of last season, he just didn’t look to me like he has “it”.  I think his days as a Sabres property are numbered.

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UPL was pretty good in the OHL and WJC so I believe he has the talent.  He did have hip surgery in 2019 and I wondered if that may have slowed his development for a bit.  That being said I don't see that as his current issue.

I think he will develop this year.  I am hoping that Comrie and Anderson can stay healthy so that he stays in Rochester for the majority of the season.  It's a important season for him and I'm sure he realizes this.  So cautiously optimistic that he develops and is ready for a bigger role with the Sabres in 2023-24.

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2 minutes ago, dudacek said:

It’s interesting that 3 or 4 years ago Eric Comrie was basically UPL and people have essentially already given up on UPL

 

I never saw Comrie play.  I can only go by what my eyes tell me.

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3 minutes ago, dudacek said:

It’s interesting that 3 or 4 years ago Eric Comrie was basically UPL and people have essentially already given up on UPL

 

For the record while following him in Winnipeg, I wrote Comrie off. 

But now that he’s a Sabre I’ve no doubt he’ll be a swell placeholder until someone better comes along. 

I’m not biased at all.

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9 minutes ago, dudacek said:

It’s interesting that 3 or 4 years ago Eric Comrie was basically UPL and people have essentially already given up on UPL

 

Comrie has always been better. Comrie’s worst AHL season was his first with a 3.12 gaa.  He has never had a save% in the A below .900.  UPL has never had an AHL season below 3.15 or better than .900.  

I would be great if UPL could somehow turn the corner, but after hearing Biron discuss UPL’s short comings I have kind of lost faith in him ever taking that next step.

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1 minute ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

Comrie has always been better. Comrie’s worst AHL season was his first with a 3.12 gaa.  He has never had a save% in the A below .900.  UPL has never had an AHL season below 3.15 or better than .900.  

I would be great if UPL could somehow turn the corner, but after hearing Biron discuss UPL’s short comings I have kind of lost faith in him ever taking that next step.

Yeah, not interested in a stats debate over this.

The parallel is that they are both touted 2nd round picks who failed to become NHLers after 3 years of development, whose fan base started writing them off.

In Comrie’s case, he was still in that spot after 5 years.

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2 minutes ago, dudacek said:

Yeah, not interested in a stats debate over this.

The parallel is that they are both touted 2nd round picks who failed to become NHLers after 3 years of development, whose fan base started writing them off.

In Comrie’s case, he was still in that spot after 5 years.

Comrie ran into the buzz saw developmentally behind two better prospects in Hellebuyck and Hutchinson. 

What’s UPL’s excuse.  

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8 minutes ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

Comrie ran into the buzz saw developmentally behind two better prospects in Hellebuyck and Hutchinson. 

What’s UPL’s excuse.  

Hutchison? Seriously?

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I took choice two however my honest guess would be far more convoluted.

 

I see UPL starting in Rochester, playing ok for the first two months or so then getting a call up due to an Anderson minor injury. He looks solid in Buffalo for a couple weeks but gets hurt himself, as always, and ends up back in Rochester for much of January and February dealing with his typical highs and lows. In March KA brings him up again with Anderson needing “IR” time and again shows to be a solid goalie in Buffalo but gets hurt yet again and finishes the year in Rochester.

Comrie has a good to very good year and brings the much needed moderate goaltending level we require.

Anderson does fine, nothing special, but sits on “IR” during UPL’s stints. He’s old and easily could classify as IR due to his age related cramps.

UPL leaves us and KA wanting more but unsure of actually what to do with him. He’s average in the AHL, plays better in the NHL but can’t play more than a handful of games before getting hurt. 
 

Devon Levi has a solid NHL start in April and is slated to be our AHL starter for 23-24. 
 

Sabres enter 23-24 with Comrie and UPL while the Amerks have Levi and either Portillo or AHL/NHL tweener like Subban or even Houser. If Portillo signs, we actually skip Levi and Portillo for our ECHL starter for a call up in case of UPL’s injury for bench roles while Levi/Portillo would fill the actual Backup starts. 
 

To sum it up, my guess is UPL is what he is; a solid NHL talent goalie that rarely can stay healthy and thus never accomplishes taking the starting role for any reasonable time. Eventually Levi and/or Portillo push him out of Buffalo where he bounces around for a few years with much of the same results before going back to Sweden. In later interviews he looks back at Buffalo fondly but feels he left so much on the plate and can’t blame the team for moving on. In his 40’s he partners with a few Swedish doctors to work on new exercises and rehab techniques for goalies which becomes a huge boon for future goalies. His reasoning being that he doesn’t want another goalie to have his career wrecked by leg problems like his was.

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3 hours ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

Comrie has always been better. Comrie’s worst AHL season was his first with a 3.12 gaa.  He has never had a save% in the A below .900.  UPL has never had an AHL season below 3.15 or better than .900.  

I would be great if UPL could somehow turn the corner, but after hearing Biron discuss UPL’s short comings I have kind of lost faith in him ever taking that next step.

Curious, because I didn’t see/hear these comments by Biron.  Where could I find them?

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Posted (edited)

I have what appears to be a minority opinion.

When I’ve watched UPL play - in the NHL - he looks like he isn’t out of place.

He’s had 13 NHL starts and I’m not sure there’s been any where he didn’t give his team a chance to win. He’s faced Boston 4 times, the Rangers twice, Tampa, Washington and Minnesota, hardly a bunch of gimmes. In the 11 games he’s finished, he averaged more than 35 shots against. Overall, he’s got a .913 NHL save percentage.

Unfortunately, he didn’t finish the other 2 because of injury. And that, coupled with his multiple injuries and inconsistencies with the Amerks, is what people remember.

I think UPL looks like an NHL goalie: his size, his poise, the way he tracks the play, gets post to post, and covers the net when the puck is down low.

But away from NHL action, I have seen him let far too many long shots leak through - shots that he was completely prepared for. And his fragility has to end.

I honestly don’t know what I expect from UPL; losing the Amerk crease to Subban would not surprise me, neither would a breakout season where he backstops a resurgent Sabres squad and gets Calder Trophy talk.

He has both those scenarios in him.

I do know that the Sabres’ patience with him is about to run out; this is a make or break season for him in Buffalo.

Edited by dudacek
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