Then and Now: Ville Leino

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After spending parts of six seasons in the SM-liiga, Ville Leino became a member of the Detroit Red Wings’ organization for the 2008-2009 campaign. The forward spent time with the Tampereen Ilves, HPK, and Jokerit before he spent most of his first season with the Wings’ franchise in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Leino saw regular season and postseason action for both the Griffins and Red Wings during 2008-2009, as he posted 46 points in 57 games with Grand Rapids and nine points in 13 tilts with Detroit.

In the AHL playoffs, Leino totaled three goals and 10 helpers in 10 contests, as the Griffins beat the Hamilton Bulldogs in six games before being swept by the Manitoba Moose in the second round.

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As for the Wings’ postseason run, Leino saw seven games with Detroit as they pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to seven games in the Stanley Cup Finals before ultimately losing. He saw Games 3, 4, and 5 of the Red Wings’ Western Conference Finals series against the Chicago Blackhawks before taking part in Games 1 through 4 in the Finals. Leino recorded two helpers in the second season, as he had the lone assist on Justin Abdelkader’s tally in Detroit’s Game 1 win and the primary assist on Henrik Zetterberg’s game-tying goal in the first period of the Wings’ loss in Game 3.

The following season saw Leino suit up in 42 games for Detroit being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers. Leino was shipped to Philly in exchange for blue liner Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. Detroit selected defenseman Mattias Backman with the Flyers’ pick, a d-man who has yet to play in the NHL and is currently with Linkopings HC of the Elitserien.

Leino potted a goal in his first game as a Flyer, which was the team’s 7-4 to the Florida Panthers on March 3rd, 2010 (go to 6:26)

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He registered two goals and two assists in 13 regular season games for the Flyers towards the end of the 2009-2010 campaign.

After not taking part in Games 1 through 4 against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals, Leino went on to tie Dino Ciccarelli’s record for most points by a rookie in a single playoff season with 21 and set the record for most assists by a rookie in a single playoff season with 14. Considering the forward didn’t record a point in Game 5 of the ECQF or Game 1 of the Flyers’ ECSF series against the Boston Bruins, Leino posted seven goals and 14 assists in the final 17 games of the Flyers’ 2010 playoff run.

Leino was put on a line with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere to form Philly’s most dangerous line for the 2010 playoffs and throughout the 2010-2011 season.

In Games 4 through 7 of the ECSF against the Bruins, Leino posted two goals and three assists to help put the Flyers into the Eastern Conference Finals.

Against the Montreal Canadiens in the ECF, Leino recorded a pair of two-point contests in Games 1 and 2 on his way to a total of five points in the five-game series.

In the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Leino nine points in the six-game series. Unfortunately for the skater, all three of his multi-point contests in the series came in losses for the Flyers.

The 2010-2011 regular season was a successful stretch for Leino, as he compiled 19 goals and 34 helpers in 81 games. In the 2011 NHL playoffs, the Finn skater potted arguably the Flyers’ most important tally of the year to help them advance to the ECSF.

With the Buffalo Sabres holding a 3-2 series lead over the second-seeded Flyers, the clubs found themselves tied at four in overtime of Game 6 when Leino deposited his first goal of the postseason. Kris Versteeg’s shot on Ryan Miller created a rebound at the side of the net, which Leino whacked home to push the series to a Game 7 in Philly. The Orange and Black trampled the Sabres 5-2 in the tilt to advance to the ECSF, where they were swept by the Bruins.

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Due to his success with Briere, Hartnell, and the Flyers, Leino wanted to earn more money in his next contract. After they paid him $800,000 in both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons, the Flyers decided not to give Leino the money he desired and let the forward walk.

Leino ended up signing with the Sabres, as the forward inked a six-year deal worth $27 million in the summer of 2011.

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In the 2011-2012 campaign, it looked as though Philly made the right decision, as the skater totaled eight goals and 17 assists in 71 games for Buffalo. He was also minus-2 with 16 PIMs.

This past season didn’t yield better results for Leino or the Sabres, as the Finn missed 40 contests this year due to injuries. However, in the eight games Leino did play in he produced two goals and four assists.

With $4 million coming his way in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 before he earns $3.5 million in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, one has to wonder if Leino will be amnestied by Buffalo before the start of next year.