Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has signed center Joseph Veleno to a three-year entry-level contract. The 30th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has enjoyed a prolific season in the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
The morning that the Detroit Red Wing 2018 Development Camp opens and the new year draftees are having their first media availability since the draft. In a generally routine exercise, prospects talk about how honoured they are to be drafted and speak about how making the NHL is going to require hard work. Most players follow suit with the vanilla answers to anything and everything, much like most of the NHL players. Everyone is on their best behaviour.
While the majority prospects are quoted with fairly common hockey mannerisms, the 30th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Joseph Veleno expressed his opinion on his draft position.
I don’t think I was a 30th pick. I think I could have gone a lot earlier, in my opinion… But for sure it motivates me even more to be better than all those players that went ahead of me and turn out to be the best player in that draft.
This after fellow 2018 first round pick of the Red Wings Filip Zadina stated that he would fill the nets of teams that passed on him as he fell to Detroit after being tabbed to go third by many before the draft. These are the type of players that the Red Wings drafted. Fiery, motivated blue-chip prospects with chips on their shoulders.
A first-round pick (30th overall) of the #RedWings in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Veleno has skated in 230 total QMJHL games with Drummondville and the Saint John Sea Dogs since 2015-16, racking up 266 points (90-176-266).
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) May 1, 2019
Veleno Scouting Report
Granted exceptional-status in the QMJHL in 2015, Veleno was drafted and playing for the Saint Johns Sea Dogs as just a 15-year-old. After a mid season trade to the Drummondville Voltigeurs in his NHL draft year, Veleno exploded with 48 points in just 33 games with his new club. The outstanding season by the Montréal native was good enough for the Red Wings to take him at the back end of the first round.
An excellent skater who has break-away speed. Veleno is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer but he’s been able to put the puck in the net as well. His on-ice vision is outstanding and his ability to make everyone around him better is an asset that will make him a play driver at the next level. The Drummondville center has been an elite-level passer, able to thread the puck through opponents sticks, putting it on the tape of teammates with consistency.
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) November 19, 2018
His 200-foot game has developed over the last 12 months and he has become a reliable player in every facet of the game. His defensive zone coverage has been exceptional as he’s been able to get into the passing lanes and transition the puck up the ice without issue. He plays a smart and mature game almost assuring that he will stay at center in the NHL.
While he isn’t a physical player in the traditional sense, he isn’t afraid of going to the dirty areas. He is proficient at using his stick to dig pucks out from scrums and making the smart play with it. One of the knocks on Veleno’s game has been his hesitancy to shoot the puck, as he has a good shot but he’s done that more this season. He possesses NHL size and will excel in the fast-paced modern NHL.
Draft +1 Season
After impressing at Red Wings training camp, Veleno was sent back to Drummondville. He had three objectives going into what he hoped would be his final junior hockey season. Make the Canadian world junior team, improve his play defensively and win the QMJHL scoring title. He undeniably accomplished two of the three, save for the scoring title. He ended up finishing with 104 points in 59 games, good for fourth in the league. This was 7 points behind league leader and over-ager Peter Abbandonato.
The scoring title is dependant on how you look at it considering he missed a chunk of the season while with Team Canada. When you take into account points-per-game however, Veleno finished first among players with at least 30 games played. His 1.763 PPG was just ahead of 2020 draft eligible phenom Alexis Lafrenière who had 1.721 PPG. Veleno was an absolute scoring machine in the QMJHL this season. He couldn’t be happier with how his season had gone in the QMJHL.
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) November 25, 2018
Canadian World Junior Team
Despite making the Canadian World Junior team, his championship dreams were not met. Veleno’s own performance mirrored the Canadian teams. With only two assists in five games, the two-way center couldn’t prevent a disappointing 6th place finish by the Canadian team. This was the second time in the last four years that Canada has placed 6th, as they also did so in 2016.
Veleno accomplishes his goal of competing for Canada came in the form of him taking on a bottom-six role, playing a shut down role. Despite the lacking offensive stats, he was relied on as their defensive center and Veleno thrived in that role. Despite that absolutely pitiful performance by Canada as a whole in this tournament, Veleno continued to grow in his development at both ends of the ice.
Return to Drummondville
After the heartache of losing in overtime to Finland at the World Juniors, Veleno came back to the ‘Q’ with a vengeance. The center took his game to another level, fully dominating at both ends of the ice. Putting up 50 points in his last 31 games, he began to take over the QMJHL. His performance lead to him leading the league in points-per-game.
The outstanding season earned Veleno a nomination for the Michel-Brière Trophy, the most valuable player in the QMJHL. While he didn’t capture the MVP award, he did secure 1st team All-star honours. The goals that Veleno set for himself at the beginning of the season had been crushed. Veleno had done what he set out to do. Prove that he is done with junior hockey.
What does 2019-20 hold?
At the age of 20, Veleno will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins. This means that Veleno is unlikely to go back to junior hockey as the Red Wings will look for the two-way center to take the next step in his development.
The 2018 first rounder will look to have a strong training camp, hoping to crack the NHL squad. That could be a tall task for a player who likely needs to play top-none minutes at a minimum to effectively play his game. Beginning next season with the Griffins allows him to play a lot minutes in a professional men’s league. It also allows him to be close to the Detroit development staff including Director of Player Development Shawn Horcoff who has been raved about as one of the best development coaches in the league.
Overall the 30th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft is out to prove one thing. Every team that passed on him, passed on a player that could be among the best in the draft. If you ask Veleno himself, they passed in the best. He’s ready to prove that.
Special thanks to the Detroit Free Press for the quotes.