For goalies, 3-on-3 hockey is daunting. Even more so when it's being played on full ice.
Last year at Sabres development camp, the 3-on-3 tournament took place in just the offensive zone. Monday morning, players at this year's camp were told that Tuesday's tournament will take on an NHL overtime-style format on full ice.
Netminders Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Jonas Johansson realize they will face plenty of chances and understand the potential challenges that await them on the last day of camp.
“You have to be ready all the time for the breakaways and 2-on-1s or even 3-on-1s,” Luukkonen said. “It’s gonna be fun. There’s gonna be a lot of hard situations, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The Sabres selected the Finnish goalie in the second round of this year's draft at No. 54 overall. He towers at 6 feet, 4 inches and 198 pounds, a menacing figure to stare down in net. Luukkonen highlights his calm demeanor as one of his best traits, one that he wanted to prove over the four days at HarborCenter. He did that Monday, making several impressive stops in a tight-quartered, small-sided drill, including a sprawling stop to save a puck at his left post.
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Luukkonen feels he's not able to show his agility around the crease as often as he would like, but Tuesday's 3-on-3 action should give him that chance. Size is what stands out about the 18-year-old, but he'll have one more day to showcase a little more than that here before returning to play in Finland.
"I should have more strength on my feet but of course, size is fun, big thing," he said. "It’s fun to get back in the game and have a little bit more competition on the ice."
The other Sabres draftee in net this week is Johansson, the 2014 third-round pick from Sweden. This is his fourth development camp, and this offseason was new for him in seeing all the movement among goaltenders in the organization. The Sabres re-signed Linus Ullmark to a two-year deal, so he'll start in Rochester. Buffalo also signed free agent Adam Wilcox to a one-year deal, presumably pushing Johansson down to Cincinnati. Johansson also had to wait out the decision of Cal Petersen, the former Notre Dame star drafted by the Sabres in 2015, but Petersen eventually signed with the Los Angeles Kings.
"I'm just happy that he wanted to sign me," Johansson said of new Sabres GM Jason Botterill giving the Swedish netminder an entry-level deal. "I'm gonna take it with patience. The contract is over three years. The goal is to be at my best Year Three, so just see what happens. I'm gonna do my absolute best to play at the highest level, but I'm gonna have patience as well. We'll see. I think it's just fun to be here."
The 6-4, 206-pound Johansson played in seven games for Rochester last season, posting a 3-3-1 record with an .892 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average. He, too, is looking forward to trying his hand at stopping some dynamic attackers in Tuesday's 3-on-3 session.
"I think it’s fun. It’s more like a real game," Johansson said. " ... It’s great to see so many people have interest to see us, even during summer. So it’s nice to get to play for the people during a game too."
The 3-on-3 tournament will start around 9 a.m. and be streamed on Sabres.com. Check out what some non-goalies had to say about the change in format for Tuesday's tournament.