Finnish and sports ‘superstar’, ‘heavyweight’, ‘record-breaker’… are just some of the things that Ville Leino, who is coming to Zagreb’s Medvescak with 323 NHL games under his belt, has been called. The forward, who plays center as well as wings, spent the past six seasons playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Buffalo Sabres. This season he will experience the joys of the Kontinental Hockey League, as well as the Ice Hall and Dom Sportova as a part of the Den and Zagreb’s Bears.
''Leino is a shooter with a rich sports pedigree, which is something that I believe will be felt immediately in games, and he’s also a true leader. He can be put in a role on the blue line right away and I believe that he will help us in powerplays. Leino had many other offers, but he heard great things about Medvescak, Zagreb, and our fans, and he decided to come here. He’s happy to be a part of our club and to help us achieve our goal on the ice’’, said Medvescak’s sports director Aaron Fox.
Ville Leino was born in 1983 in Savonlinn (Finland). He developed his strong hockey roots in the club SaPko. He played his first games with SaPko’s senior team at age 17, and in 2002-03 he signed with Finnish A League club Ilvesom. After three seasons he moved to HPK, and crowned his premiere in the HPK jersey with an SM-Liiga championship title. In the 2006-07 season he won bronze with them.
Before coming to North America, Leino spent 2007-08 with Jokerit. He got 96 points in 69 games, broke the club’s record for regular season goals (77), made the most assists in Liiga (49), and was dubbed the best regular season player (Lasse Oksanen Award).
In May 2008 he signed his first NHL contract with the Detroit Red Wings, but due to payment issues with Detroit, Leino started off the season in the AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins, and then debuted in the NHL in January 2009, which he crowned with a goal in the first period against the Washington Capitals. Leino is one of few players to score in his NHL debut.
In February 2010 he traded Detroit for the Philadelphia Flyers for the rest of the 2009-10 season (he scored an outstanding 21 points in 19 playoff games), and remained with them for all of 2010-11, getting his first hat-trick in the NHL against the Atlanta Thrashers. Leino spent the past three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Over his professional career, he has played a total of 323 NHL games and scored 147 points.