Yutaka Fukufuji

Yutaka Fukufuji (福藤 豊, Fukufuji Yutaka, born September 17, 1982) is a Japanese ice hockey player currently with the Nikko Ice Bucks of the Asia League Ice Hockey. Fukufuji was the first Japanese player to appear in a National Hockey League game.[1] The first Japanese draft pick, Hiroyuki Miura, was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1992 NHL Draft, but never played in an NHL game. Fukufuji is the first Japanese citizen to be drafted as a goaltender in the NHL and second Japanese national to be drafted.

Yutaka Fukufuji
Born (1982-09-17) September 17, 1982
Kushiro, Hokkaidō, Japan
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 198 lb (90 kg; 14 st 2 lb)
Position Goaltender
Catches Left
ALIH team
Former teams
Nikkō Ice Bucks
Bakersfield Condors (ECHL)
Manchester Monarchs (AHL)
Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
Reading Royals (ECHL)
Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL)
Kokudo Tokyo (ALIH)
National team  Japan
NHL Draft 238th overall, 2004
Los Angeles Kings
Playing career 2002present
Medal record
Men's ice hockey
Representing  Japan
Asian Games
2011 Astana-AlmatyIce hockey

Career

Fukufuji was born in Kushiro, Hokkaidō, Japan.[2][3] He played on the Kokudo hockey team of Asia League Ice Hockey in 2001. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2004 entry draft in the 8th round, 238th overall.[2] He made his North American debut on February 7, 2003 with the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones. He was voted the ECHL rookie of the month in January 2003. He played for the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL in 2004–05 leading the team in wins, GAA, and shutouts.[3] Fukufuji signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings in August 2005. After starting the 2005–06 season with the Reading Royals, the Kings ECHL franchise, Yutaka was the number 2 goalie on the AHL Manchester Monarchs for a time.

On December 15, 2006, Fukufuji was called up on to the Los Angeles Kings on emergency basis.[2] He became the first Japanese player to dress for an NHL game, but he did not play.[2]

When goaltender Mathieu Garon was placed on injured reserve with a broken finger, Fukufuji was again recalled and flew in from Cleveland, Ohio to dress as backup to goalie Barry Brust.[2] On January 13, 2007, Fukufuji made his first NHL appearance, the first by a Japanese player, when Kings head coach Marc Crawford decided to put him in to start the third period of a game against the St. Louis Blues.[2] Fukufuji entered the game with the Kings trailing 5–4. He allowed one goal in the period, and the Kings also scored one goal while he was in net. The final score of the game was 6–5 in favor of St. Louis; as Fukufuji was the goaltender who allowed the decisive sixth St. Louis goal, he was assessed the loss.[2][3]

On January 16, 2007, Fukufuji made history again when he became the first Japanese player to start in an NHL game, as he began the game in goal for the Kings against the Atlanta Thrashers.[2]

Fukufuji was not presented with a qualifying offer by the Kings before the 2007–08 season, but returned to the Condors on September 10, 2007 after signing a contract for the 2007–08 season.[4]

On May 25, 2009, Fukufuji was signed by the Destil Trappers of the Eredivisie, the top league in the Netherlands.[5] After one full season with Destil Trappers Fukufuji signed with Nikko Ice Bucks in July 2010.[6]

Career statistics

Season Team League GPMINGAENSOGAAWLTSVPct
2002–03Cincinnati CyclonesECHL940321103.134302260.915
2004–05Bakersfield CondorsECHL442517104132.48279511820.919
2005–06Manchester MonarchsAHL21206003.00110720.923
2005–06Reading RoyalsECHL29169182312.9115949090.917
2006–07Los Angeles KingsNHL4967004.37030360.837
2006–07Reading RoyalsECHL28152275212.96131007180.905
2006–07Manchester MonarchsAHL52614010.923101110.965
2007–08Bakersfield CondorsECHL462427137313.391818112190.899
2008–09Bakersfield CondorsECHL351821100203.29181219170.902

References

  1. Grossman, Evan (2007-03-14). "NHL Insider: When It Comes To Hockey, It's A Small World". National Hockey League. External link in |publisher= (help)
  2. Matsuda, Gann (2007-02-21). "Fukufuji Proud Of Season As He Looks Forward". Rafu Shimpo. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  3. Wigge, Larry (2007-01-16). "Kings Goalie Is First Native Japanese Player In The NHL". National Hockey League. Retrieved 2007-08-01. External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. Griffith, Mike (2007-09-11). "Condors 'Delighted' At Fukufuji's Return". Bakersfield Californian. Archived from the original on June 11, 2008. Retrieved 2007-09-25. External link in |publisher= (help)
  5. "Trappers sign Japanese goalie". Destil Trappers. 2009-05-25. Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
  6. "Team | Hc Nikko Ice Bucks". Icebucks.jp. Archived from the original on 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
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