Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2017 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
The top goaltending prospect in Europe, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has had success for Finland’s junior teams at the international level. He backstopped the Finnish team to the 2016 IIHF Under 18 World Championship gold medal, putting up a .917 save percentage in the tournament. He was also named to the tournament all-star team, and one of the top three players on Team Finland. Not bad for an under-ager in the tournament. He also played in the Under 17 last year.
This year he also went to the Under 18, backstopping the Finns to a silver medal. His performance was not quite as good as 2016, as he had an .899 save percentage in the tournament. He also played in the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
Domestically Luukkonen has been playing in the Jr. A Liiga, for HPK. He put up a miniscule 1.78 goals against average, as well as a .917 save percentage this season.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen Scouting Report: 2017 NHL Draft #47
Goalie — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born March 9th, 1999 — Espoo, Finland
Height 6’4″ — Weight 198 lbs [194 cm/90 kg]
Skating and Talent Analysis
At 6’4″ tall, Luukkonen has the ideal size that NHL teams are currently looking for. He also gets out well, cutting down angles and taking up a lot of net. Luukkonen has strong legs, giving him an excellent push off the post. He gets side-to-side extremely quick. Luukkonen keeps his shoulders square to the puck when moving across the crease, and when tracking rebounds.
He is very good down low, with very quick legs. Luukkonen is a butterfly goalie who gets in-and-out of his stance extremely quickly. With his size, he still has his shoulders above the crossbar, even when playing in the butterfly. Luukkonen is also very athletic, which helps him to make highlight reel saves on those rare occasions that he finds himself out of position. He has a decent glove and blocker to take away the top of the net. They can get even quicker though. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t at the elite level his legs are currently at.
Luukkonen is part of the modern group of goalies who have very good puck handling ability. He can make a first pass to a defenceman, moving the puck out of danger and getting the transition game started. He also has the ability to make a long breakaway pass, catching the opponents out of position if they are in the midst of a bad change.
Luukkonen can still refine some areas of his game. Like many young goalies, he has not yet mastered rebound control. He can work on swallowing up more shots, as well as directing pucks to the corners.
Luukkonen has performed well in high pressure situations, like the Under 18s, with elimination and/or medals on the line. He does not get flustered in net, and recovers quickly after letting in a bad goal. Luukkonen is calm and composed in the midst of traffic. He keeps the focus on his puck-tracking, not getting distracted by what is happening around him.
Projection and Comparison
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has the skills necessary to be a franchise level NHL goalie. However, like most young goalies, there will be a bit of a learning curve. He will need time to develop, and improve his endurance to play a North American schedule. Luukkonen also needs to improve his blocker and glove, as well as his rebound control. In terms of stylistic comparisons, he is reminiscent of Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, but this is not a talent comparison.
The following is a compilation of highlights, assembled from Youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect available on our draft board.
Main Photo via youtube.ca.