It's not uncommon for Tony Granato to show up to work and be asked to go over a play from an NHL game. The University of Wisconsin coach might be asked if he saw a play made by Johnny Gaudreau the night prior, or if he can pull up a clip from the Chicago Blackhawks game.
The one doing the asking is Linus Weissbach, a sophomore forward for the Badgers and Buffalo's seventh-round pick in 2017.
"What I've really enjoyed watching is the amount of time he watches hockey when he's away from the rink," Granato said over the phone Tuesday. "He comes in in the morning and he's telling me, 'Hey, did you see last night's game? Did you see Gaudreau's goal?'
"He is one of those kids that it's 24-hours-a-day hockey. That's him."
After scoring 26 points (10+16) in 34 games and earning a spot on the Big 10's All-Rookie Team as a freshman last season, Weissbach came into his sophomore year knowing he'd be counted on offensively. That meant a top-six role and heavy power-play minutes.
His response, so far: eight points (2+6) in six games this season, including a four-point weekend in the Badgers' most recent series against Michigan Tech. His point total is tied for second on the team and fifth in the Big 10.
What's impressed his coach is that Weissbach hasn't let the other aspects of his development slip in the process.
"Sometimes you get in a scoring role and you're asked to do a lot offensively, you focus on that part of it and you take for granted the other part of the game that you need to stay polished on and work on to continue to develop," Granato said. "That part's been fun for me to watch, because I think he's working at becoming a more complete player.
"I think offensively he's a dynamic player, he's got great speed, he's a natural scorer. Now he's got to finetune his defensive stuff. I think he's committed to that. He's shown great strides and a great commitment to working on that part of the game."
It's no accident that Weissbach favors Gaudreau highlights. He's listed at 5-foot-8, 161 pounds, making him about the same size as the Calgary Flames All-Star forward.
Granato - who was listed at 5-foot-10 during his own 13-year career - emphasizes that it took more than offense for Gaudreau to become who he is.
"I think he's got the right mindset, mentality to understand that being an undersized player, there's some things he has to do and commit to doing," Granato said. "He's on his way to trying to be that player. Johnny Gaudreau's the kind of player that he admires and likes, and he has some of Johnny Gaudreau in him.
"That dynamic part in how he plays, he's going to have to play like Johnny Gaudreau. But he's going to have to learn that Johnny Gaudreau gets on the ice so much because of all the little things he does without the puck consistently. Linus is still learning that process, but he's certainly committed to learning to develop that way as a player."
Of course, learning is nothing new to Weissbach. He left Sweden to play in the USHL in 2016-17, his only North American season before going to Wisconsin. There were cultural adjustments, sure. But at the end of the day, it was hockey.
"I like to say to people that ask that hockey is a puck and two nets," Weissbach said. "I just try to play my game out there. I love to play hockey and that's what I do out there."
Matej Pekar (2018, fourth round) posted three points over the weekend including two shorthanded goals for the Barrie Colts of the OHL.
Pekar has nine goals on the season with four of them coming on the penalty kill. He's third on the team in scoring.
The Colts are in Sarnia on Thursday and in Oshawa on Sunday.
|Skater ||Position ||Team (League) ||GP ||G ||A ||PTS |
|Christopher Brown ||F ||Boston College (NCAA) ||4 ||0 ||2 ||2 |
|Jacob Bryson ||D ||Providence (NCAA) ||6 ||2 ||2 ||4 |
|Ivan Chukarov ||D ||Massachusetts (NCAA) ||4 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Marcus Davidsson ||F ||Djuragardens (SHL) ||13 ||1 ||6 ||7 |
|Casey Fitzgerald ||D ||Boston College (NCAA) ||4 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Miska Kukkonen ||D ||KeuPa HT (Mestis) ||1 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Oskari Laaksonen ||D ||Ilves (Liiga) ||18 ||1 ||9 ||10 |
|Linus Lindstrand Cronholm ||D ||IK Pantern (Allsvenskan) ||8 ||1 ||3 ||4 |
|Brett Murray ||F ||Youngstown (USHL) ||9 ||1 ||6 ||7 |
|Philip Nyberg ||D ||UConn (NCAA) ||6 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Matej Pekar ||F ||Barrie (OHL) ||15 ||9 ||9 ||18 |
|Mattias Samuelsson ||D ||Western Michigan (NCAA) ||6 ||1 ||0 ||1 |
|Linus Weissbach ||F ||Wisconsin (NCAA) ||6 ||2 ||6 ||8 |
|Maxwell Willman ||F ||Boston University (NCAA) ||4 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|William Worge Kreu ||D ||Linkoping J20 (SuperElit) ||7 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Goaltender ||Team (League) ||GP ||W ||L ||OTL ||SOL ||GAA ||SV% |
|Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen ||Sudbury (OHL) ||10 ||6 ||3 ||0 ||1 ||2.72 ||.920 |