NAME: Ville Leino
POSITION: Left Wing
Regular Season Statistics (w/PHI): 13 Games Played – 2 Goals, 2 Assists, 4 Points. +2.
Analysis: I remember exactly where I was when the Flyers acquired Ville Leino: sitting in a production trailer in Vancouver, British Columbia, preparing for NBC’s production of Men’s Ice Hockey for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I saw the update on Twitter and I was ecstatic. No, not at the fact that they acquired Leino – all I knew about him was that he was a solid Finn who was left off their Olympic roster – but the fact that they had finally rid themselves of an awful off-season signing in Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. He was atrocious during his time in Philadelphia and I didn’t care what the Flyers got for him, I was just glad to see him go. As it turns out, early on in Leino’s stint as a Flyer, he didn’t impress all that much. Head coach Peter Laviolette seemed reluctant to insert Leino into the line-up and instead kept him as a healthy scratch for the better part of time after the Flyers acquired him. As a result, Leino was rarely heard from and much less seen in Orange and Black.
Postseason Statistics: 19 Games Played – 7 Goals, 14 Assists, 21 Points. +10.
Analysis: Leino’s fortunes changed for the better when he was inserted into the line-up as an injury replacement for Game Five of the Flyers’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the New Jersey Devils. Jeff Carter was injured blocking a shot in Game Four, and once Leino got in on the playoff action, he never came out again. Leino would play every single playoff game from that point forward for the Flyers, and won the hearts of many fans in the process. His skills were on full display and many were easily shown why this man was once the Finnish Elite League’s MVP – he was that good. In fact, Leino set the Flyers’ rookie scoring record during the teams’ postseason run, shattering the old record formerly held by Brian Propp, and tied the NHL rookie scoring record alongside Dino Ciccarelli with 21 points in only 19 games. Leino will be a free agent after this next season, but unless there is some dramatic dropoff, expect #22 to be in Orange and Black with the Flyers for a long time.
FINAL GRADE: B
Reasoning: Leino was incredible in the postseason, there’s no doubting that. Of course, he didn’t exactly get the opportunity beforehand to prove himself to the Flyers as his regular season playing time was incredibly limited, but Leino still was strong when he was counted on the most. I’m reluctant to give Leino anything higher than a “B” simply because he hasn’t been here for more than a year yet, and although it’s easy to say he’s now accepted across Flyerdom, I need more time with Leino to truly get a feel for him. He’s going to be great for the Flyers if he continues to play at a level like he did in the playoffs, but is that possible? Will we see this Leino again next season, or will we see the one that floundered in Detroit? I’m a little nervous to find out to be honest, but I’m positive that Leino can be good here and good for a long, long time. It’s just a matter of him wanting to be.