The hip surgery that prevented Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen from competing in the Prospects Challenge will also keep him out for the duration of training camp this month, assistant general manager Randy Sexton told The Buffalo News.
Luukkonen, 20, underwent surgery in April and was given a six-month estimated timeline for recovery. He has spent much of the offseason in Buffalo, where he has worked with Sabres goalie development coach Seamus Kotyk and Dennis Miller, the team's head of rehab and development. Luukkonen will continue to work with both this month.
Though the injury will prevent him from competing in Ralph Krueger's first training camp as coach, Luukkonen's recovery is "on track," according to Sexton, and he should be ready to play shortly after games begin in October.
"He’s doing very well," Sexton said. "He’s right on track, which is great. ... No pain, no soreness. A little bit of fatigue but you would expect that. He's on track. He’ll be around here in Buffalo for a while because he’s obviously not ready to play, but we’re really encouraged by the progress he’s made and we have every expectation, barring a setback, he’ll be ready to play when the schedule starts."
With Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark set to work as the Sabres' tandem in goal, Luukkonen is likely to spend most of the season in Rochester. The team signed veteran Andrew Hammond to serve as the organization's No. 3 goalie and likely stop-gap starter for the Amerks.
Luukkonen led Finland to a gold medal with a .932 save percentage at the IIHF World Junior Championship in January and was among the Ontario Hockey League's best goalies, ranking first in the league in shutouts (six) and regular-season wins (38).
Luukkonen was announced in May as the recipient of the Red Tilson Trophy, which is given annually to the OHL's most valuable player. Luukkonen, who stands 6 feet, 5 inches, and his teammates swept Mississauga in the first round of the OHL playoffs before enduring the same fate against Ottawa. He was ranked by TSN as the sport's 12th best NHL-affiliated prospect in January.
Additionally, Luukkonen was voted the OHL's goaltender of the year after his goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts were the best in Sudbury history. He led the Wolves to their best regular-season record since 1994-95.
Luukkonen made his professional debut in Rochester's season finale, making 32 saves against Belleville to earn his first win. He was unable to practice with the Amerks during their short playoff run and later revealed that he had been playing through hip discomfort.