TOKYO (AP) – Yutaka Fukufuji knows it’s a long, hard road to the NHL but that’s a trip the Japanese goalie is prepared to take even if it means riding the buses in hockey’s backwaters for a few more years.
Fukufuji signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Los Angeles Kings earlier this month. The 22-year-old will attend a Kings’ rookie camp next month. If he doesn’t make it with the Kings, he’ll likely be assigned to L.A.’s AHL farm team, the Manchester Monarchs.
“My goal is to play in the NHL,” Fukufuji told a news conference Thursday. “I know it will be tough but I’m ready for rookie camp and I’m looking forward to taking on my rivals.”
The 6-1 and 170-pound Fukufuji was selected by the Kings 238th overall in the 2004 NHL draft. He played for the Bakersfield Condors in 2004-05 and posted 27 wins, with three shutouts and a 2.48 goals-against average while helping the team to the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs.
While some have likened Fukufuji to baseball’s Hideo Nomo or soccer’s Hidetoshi Nakata, the soft-spoken goaltender says he’s got other things on his mind than being a pioneer.