Friday, May 27, 2016

Impressions of, and questions concerning--G, Linus Ullmark

Reprinted with permission from

Goaltender--Linus Ullmark
DOB:  July 31, 1993 (age, 22)
Draft:  2012, 6th round (163rd overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  2014--3yrs./$2.3275M total  + $445,500 in performance bonuses
Final year of contract:  2016-17, RFA

2015-16 Stats:  20 games, 8-10-2 record, 2.60 goals against average, .913 save percentage, 0 shutouts

What we wrote preseason:  N/A

What we wrote mid-season:  "while Lehner and Johnson may be battling it out for the starters-role near-term, Ullmark should be in that mix a few years down the road. For a 22 yr. old rookie goaltender playing his first pro season in North America, he acquitted himself quite well. Early in the season Bylsma was impressed with Ullmark's calm demeanor under pressure. Still looks like a rook on many occasions, especially when he's lunging, but all-in-all, a fine NHL debut thus far for the 6'4" 212 lb. Ulmark."

Impressions on his play this year:  He was a rookie goaltender thrust into a position that no one foresaw at training camp. When starting goaltender Robin Lehner went down in the second period of the Sabres first game of the season, Nathan Lieuwen got the call as Chad Johnson's backup. Ullmark was in Rochester acclimating himself to not only his first pro game in North America, but his first game in months because of elective double-hip surgery.

The original plan was to have Ullmark return to the ice sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but his rehab went marvelously and he started the season in Rochester. He played extremely well for the Amerks was brought up as Johnson's backup then got his first NHL start on October 24, 2015. Upon hitting the NHL ice one was struck by his poise and smooth positional play but as with all rookies, especially rookie goaltenders, the more tape teams have on a player, the more they'll exploit weaknesses. Ullmark had a solid rookie campaign for Buffalo but things fell apart when Lehner returned and he was sent back to Rochester and he was giving up goals in bunches.

Questions moving forward:  His manic end of season play in Rochester was somewhat disconcerting, but was it a matter of his hips giving him trouble? Especially because he came back months early from surgery? Can he maintain his poise if he gets off to a slow start next season, presumably with the Amerks? Has he adapted to the North American culture? How much will the coaching change affect him and the skaters playing in front of him? Will he have the same mental recuperative powers that he had when he recovered from hip surgery?

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