By Warren Kozireski–
The Buffalo Sabres trend of drafting and developing players from Sweden is more than evident over the past few seasons. Rasmus Ristolainen, Rasmus Dahlin, Linus Ullmark, Lawrence Pilut, Rasmus Asplund and Victor Olofsson come immediately to mind.
One that doesn’t leap to the frontal cortex immediately, except to the most avid of Sabres fans, is Linus Weissbach.
Selected in the seventh round 192nd overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Weissbach (pronounced Wise-back) is in his sophomore season with the University of Wisconsin where the left winger was tied for the team lead with 23 points through the end of the regular season despite missing the month of November and December 1 with a hand injury.
“Since I got back it’s just been getting better and better. The good thing is I was still able to skate.
“I didn’t have any expectations of getting drafted at all, but it happened and they’re giving me a chance. It’s a long road and long way to the NHL, but at the same time you feel like you’re getting closer and closer playing against guys who could play there next year or the year after. Still have a bit to go, but hopefully one day I’ll get there.
“I’m trying to play more of a complete game every time I’m out there, being strong on the puck. I think that’s the next step for me is to be more of a puck-possession guy. And I have to use my speed and explosiveness to get the next level.”
The 5’9”, 165 lb. winger finished the regular season on a hot streak for the Badgers with five goals and 11 assists over the final 10 games prior to the Big Ten playoffs.
Weissbach earlier jumped from Sweden to the USHL and Tri-City where he scored 47 points in 49 games before heading to Madison, Wisconsin.
“I kind of made the decision on my own. I looked at my options and it was either sign a pro contract when I was 17 (years old) or taking the long road, I guess. But I felt that I wasn’t ready to play pro hockey at that age and that this would be a good fit for me.”
And among the first recruiting class for now third-year Wisconsin head coach and former NHLer Tony Granato.
“I didn’t know too much about the program when they first contacted me, but it obviously ended up being a pretty good fit. To be honest I didn’t have a clue about college hockey; I knew nothing, no teams, no schools so I had to find my way through that on my own and navigate through to find what would be a good fit for me.”
The soon-to-be 21-year old (April 19) was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2017-18 after playing in 34 games for the Badgers with 10 goals and 16 assists. Those 26 points led all rookies and ranked third on the team. And now he’s added a solid sophomore campaign to his resume.
The most important question from many Sabres fans, based on their goaltender, is how does Linus pronounce Linus—”Lee-nus” like Ullmark or “Line-us” from the Charlie Brown cartoon?
“For me it’s been “Line-us” since I came over,” Weissbach said. “I know Ullmark prefers “Lee-nus” like it is back home, but I think over here for me it’s going to be “Line-us”. It sounds better to my ears.”
(photo by u of wisconsin hockey)