Then and Now: Lasse Kukkonen

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One of the many trades Paul Holmgren made during the 2006-2007 season was one that resulted in Lasse Kukkonen coming to Philadelphia from the Chicago Blackhawks. In exchange for Kyle Calder, the Flyers acquired Kukkonen and Chicago’s third-round draft pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, with which Philly picked Garrett Klotz.

After he posted five goals and nine assists in 54 games for the Hawks, Kukkonen went pointless in his first 20 regular season games for his second different NHL team.

In May of 2007, Kukkonen signed a two-year contract to stay with the Flyers. The blue liner cost Philly a cap hit of $875,000 for both of the seasons he dressed in the Orange and Black.

During the 2007-2008 regular season, Kukkonen participated in 53 regular season games for Philly and registered five points. His only goal as a Flyer, and his last goal in the NHL, came in a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers on October 24th, 2007 (go to 4:16).

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The defenseman also had four helpers during the 2007-2008 campaign, as well as 38 PIMs and a plus-3 rating.

As for the 2008 playoffs, Kukkonen took part in 14 of the Flyers’ 17 games, as the club made an amazing run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The only three games Kukkonen missed were Game 3 through 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals.

The d-man recorded two points, six PIMs, and a minus-1 rating on the Flyers’ playoff run. His first helper was the secondary assist on Vinny Prospal’s goal in the second period of Game 1 against the Caps, while his second was the secondary assist on Scottie Upshall’s series-clinching redirection against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The 2008-2009 season was not as kind to Kukkonen, who spent more time with the Philadelphia Phantoms than the Flyers. With just two assists in 22 games for the Flyers, Kukkonen posted 11 with the Phantoms in 26 regular season contests.

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In the 2009 postseason, Kukkonen remained with the Phantoms and played in each of the team’s four games, as they were swept by the eventual Calder Cup winners in the Hershey Bears.

The defenseman left the Flyers’ organization and the NHL altogether after the 2008-2009 season, as he joined Avangard Omsk of the KHL. The Finn became teammates with several former and future NHLers in Jaromir Jagr, Karri Ramo, Eric Perrin, Nikita Nikitin, and Anton Babchuk.

Kukkonen played in 53 games for Avangard Omsk registering six goals and six assists along with 34 PIMs and a plus-13 rating. However it wasn’t Kukkonen’s stats that made the season memorable, but rather a huge brawl that started due to an incident involving him.

In a game between Avangard Omsk and Vityaz Chekhov on January 9th, 2010, a massive bench-clearing brawl ensued resulting in 840 PIMs and the contest being suspended. The KHL later gave both teams a loss for the game. The melee was caused by Vityaz Chekhov’s tough guy Darcy Verot shooting a puck at Lasse Kukkonen during pre-game warm-ups. The incident flared tempers, which spilled over into the first few minutes of the game.

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Avangard Omsk reached the 2010 KHL playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, they were swept by Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in their best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinals’ match-up. Kukkonen recorded an assist and posted a minus-1 rating in the three-game series.

After one season with Avangard Omsk, Kukkonen moved to Metallurg Magnitogorsk. His new team featured Sergei and Fedor Fedorov, Oleg Kvasha, Stanislav Chistov, and Enver Lisin.

The d-man posted 12 points for a second straight season, as he deposited four goals and racked up eight helpers in 37 contests. He also had 16 PIMs and a plus-11 rating.

Metallurg Magnitogorsk made a respectable run in the 2011 KHL playoffs, as they beat Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk in six games and Kukkonen’s former team Avangard Omsk in seven games before falling to Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the Eastern Conference Finals. Kukkonen took part in five games going pointless with a plus-2 rating.

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The blue liner stayed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk for a second season during the 2011-2012 season, as he was joined by former Flyer Danny Markov.

In 51 games last season, Kukkonen posted four goals and four assists for an eight-point regular season, his first season where he didn’t produce at least 10 points overall since 2007-2008.

As for the 2012 KHL postseason, Metallurg Magnitogorsk beat Barys Astana in seven games before falling to Avangard Omsk in a five-game Conference Semifinals’ match-up. Kukkonen played in 10 of his team’s 12 playoff games posting an assist, four PIMs, and a minus-4 rating.

For the 2012-2013 season, Kukkonen has not only switched teams, but leagues as well. The d-man is now playing for Rogle Bandyklubb of the Elitserien. Other former NHLers on Rogle this season are Martin Gerber, Tom Preissing, Martin Strbak, and Mathias Tjarnqvist.

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Seven games into this season Kukkonen has an assist as the alternate captain, while Rogle is 2-5-0.