Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of the Sudbury Wolves is the 2018-19 recipient of the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year award.
Luukkonen becomes the first member of the Wolves to earn the award after tying for the league lead with 38 wins and six shutouts, while posting the OHL’s third best goals-against-average with a mark of 2.50 and the best save percentage at .920. His GAA, SV%, and shutout total established new franchise records backstopping the Wolves to their most successful season since 1994-95.
“I am very honoured to be named OHL Goaltender of the Year,” Luukkonen said. “I want to thank my teammates and all of the Wolves fans who stood behind us the whole year. I also want to thank our owner Dario Zulich and our General Manager Rob Papineau for taking a chance with me, and drafting me in the Import Draft and for creating an amazing environment for all our players to play in. To Coach Cory Stillman, Goalie Coach Alain Valiquette, Athletic Therapist Dan Buckland and the rest of the Sudbury Wolves organization, I want to say thank you for pushing me and believing in me. I am also very thankful for my billets Tammy and John Valtonen this season who gave me a second home.”
A 20-year-old from Espoo, Finland, Luukkonen joined the Wolves as the third overall pick in the 2018 CHL Import Draft. He played to an overall record of 38-11-2-2 helping the Wolves finish second in the Central Division standings with 43 wins and 91 points. He began his OHL career with five consecutive wins and produced impressive streaks of 11 and eight throughout the 2018-19 campaign. His 38 wins are the second most in a single season in franchise history behind only Jim Bedard who won 40 games in 1975-76. Luukkonen was also recognized in the annual OHL Coaches Poll tying for Best Puck Handling Goalie and winning the Best Shootout Goalie in the Eastern Conference vote. The second round pick by the Sabres in the 2017 NHL Draft represented his country on the international stage winning gold at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and following the Wolves playoff run made his professional debut on April 14 making 32 saves in a victory for the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
“We are extremely proud and happy for Ukko on winning this award,” said Wolves General Manager Rob Papineau. “We knew when we drafted Ukko that we were drafting a great goaltender. It quickly became very obvious that he was also an outstanding teammate and individual who is an amazing leader. His character is as great as his ability to stop pucks. The impact he has had on our players and our organization on what it takes to be the best and to be a pro will remain with our team for years into the future. His dedication, his focus, and his preparation both on and off the ice are second to none. His support of the community of Greater Sudbury and the significant Greater Sudbury Finnish population as well as the time he made available for young fans was remarkable. We thank Ukko for his time in Sudbury and we wish him tremendous continued success with the Buffalo Sabres and throughout his entire career.”
The OHL Goaltender of the Year is awarded to the league’s most outstanding goaltender as selected by OHL General Managers. Teams were not permitted to vote for a goaltender from their own hockey club. Goaltenders received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote.
Luukkonen was the unanimous choice by OHL General Managers receiving the maximum 95 points in the voting process representing 19 first ballot selections. Boston Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals finished in second place with 44 voting points, followed by Arizona Coyotes prospect Ivan Prosvetov of the Saginaw Spirit with 19 voting points.
The award was first presented in 1987-88 to Rick Tabaracci (Cornwall) with other notable winners including Manny Legace (Niagara Falls 1993), Craig Anderson (Guelph 2001), Steve Mason (London 2007), the league’s only back-to-back winner Mike Murphy (Belleville 2008 and 2009), Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound 2013), Alex Nedeljkovic (Plymouth 2014), Lucas Peressini (Kingston 2015), Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie 2016), Michael McNiven (Owen Sound 2017), and Michael DiPietro (Windsor 2018).
Luukkonen will be formally presented with the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year Award on June 5 at the OHL Awards Ceremony held at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He is also the OHL’s nominee for CHL Goaltender of the Year to be announced on Saturday May 25 in Halifax at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.