Ville Leino (born 6 October 1983) is a Finnish professional ice hockey forward currently playing with Växjö Lakers in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He has also previously played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres.
At age 17, Leino started playing for his hometown hockey team SaPKo in the Suomi-sarja. He was then recruited to the SM-liiga by Ilves, and later moved on to HPK, where he led the team in scoring in the 2005–06 season when HPK won their first SM-liiga championship.
In 2007, Leino was signed by Jokerit, where he was switched from centre to wing. In his first season with the team, he broke the club record for most points in the regular season when he surpassed Timo Sutinen's record of 73. He went on to finish second in scoring, and won the Lasse Oksanen trophy for the best player during the regular season in the SM-liiga.
On 10 May 2008, Leino signed a one-year contract with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. Due to the Red Wings' salary cap issues, however, Leino was assigned to the team's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. Then-Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock commented that Leino was the "best player" he had ever sent to the minors. Ville was eventually recalled from the Griffins on 29 January 2009.
In the first period of his NHL debut on 31 January 2009, Leino scored a goal against goaltender José Théodore in a 4–2 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Leino signed a one-way, two-year extension with the Red Wings on 6 July 2009.
On 6 February 2010, Leino was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Norwegian defenceman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth-round draft pick in 2011. Leino had two goals and two assists in 14 games with the Flyers during the regular season. He then began the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, but injuries to Simon Gagné and Jeff Carter forced Leino into action. Forming the most offensively-productive line in the playoffs alongside Daniel Brière and Scott Hartnell, Leino scored seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points in 19 games, tying the rookie record for most points in the Stanley Cup playoffs held by Dino Ciccarelli.
On 12 March 2011, during the 2010–11 regular season, Leino recorded his first career hat-trick against the Atlanta Thrashers. On 24 April, during the first round of the 2011 playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres, Leino scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 of the series to bring Philadelphia even with Buffalo, three games apiece. He finished the playoffs with three goals and two assists as the Flyers were ultimately swept in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Leino became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011 season, whereupon he signed a six-year, $27 million contract with Buffalo on 1 July 2011. His performance during the 2011–12 season, however, was much maligned, as he scored just eight goals with 17 assists during 71 games, failing to live up to the expectations of his recently signed contract. Continuing sub-par play in the 2012–13 and 2013–14 seasons (he failed to score a single goal in the latter) prompted incoming Head Coach Ted Nolan to bench Leino near the end of the 2013–14 season, leading to speculation that the Sabres would buy out his contract at the end of the season. On 17 June, in the off-season, the Sabres indeed placed Leino on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a compliance buyout. Leino would later reflect upon his final season in Buffalo as a very unpleasant experience, akin to spending time in jail because of the high pressure on him to live up to his contract.
Return to Europe
As an unrestricted free agent again, Leino attended the Boston Bruins training camp for the 2014–15 season on a player tryout offer, but was eventually released from the team on 29 September. He returned to Europe in signing a one-year contract with Croatian-based Kontinental Hockey League club, KHL Medveščak Zagreb, on 12 October 2014. After scoring 15 points in 28 games in Zagreb, Leino left to sign in the Swiss league for the remainder of the campaign with the Kloten Flyers of the National League A on 13 February 2015.
On 24 July 2015, Leino made a return to the KHL in signing a one-year contract with Latvian club, Dinamo Riga of the KHL.
Leino made his international debut for Finland on the 2006–07 Euro Hockey Tour.
- NHL – Most points in the Stanley Cup playoffs by a rookie, 21 (2010) (tied with Dino Ciccarelli)
- NHL – most assists in the Stanley Cup playoffs by a rookie, 14 (2010)
- NHL – most assists in the Stanley Cup Finals by a rookie, 6 (2010)
|2008–09||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||13||5||4||9||6||7||0||2||2||0|
|2008–09||Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||57||15||31||46||18||10||3||10||13||10|
|2009–10||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||42||4||3||7||6||—||—||—||—||—|
|2014–15||KHL Medveščak Zagreb||KHL||28||7||8||15||28||—||—||—||—||—|
- SM-liiga – All-Star 2006 and 2008
- SM-liiga – Player of the Month, January 2006 and October 2007
- SM-liiga – Lasse Oksanen trophy for best player of the regular season, 2008