Height/Weight: 6’1” / 194 lbs
Birthday: January 13, 2000 (19 years old)
Birthplace: Montreal, QC, Canada
Draft: 2018 1st round (#30 overall)
What do we like about him?
Most of the talk was about how lucky the Red Wings were that Zadina was there at #6 at the 2018 NHL Draft. However, maybe even more of a surprise was the fact that Joe Veleno was available at #30 after being projected as a Top 15-20 prospect going in. Not only that, but Veleno was one of just five players to be granted exceptional status in the CHL at the time he was drafted in 2015. Since then, Veleno has done nothing but prove he could be the steal of the draft and an elite two-way center going forward. He finished fourth in the Q last year with 104 points, yet was just seven points behind the league lead while having played in nine less games. Similar to McIsaac, if it weren’t for such a deep playoff run by his team, he would have gotten a crack in Grand Rapids for their respective playoff run.
There’s really not one part of his game that stands out, because he’s already one of the most complete players in the Red Wings system. He has speed to burn, knows how to play his position better than almost any 19-year-old and knows how to find guys in the open ice. He plays a complete 200-foot game and truthfully is well on his way to becoming an elite two-way player.
What needs work?
Veleno ended up back in juniors solely because he was not developed as much as several of the top prospects in the 2018 draft. The issue was for him was that he was able to get pushed around and contained at times, which limited him offensively. Clearly he went back to work and got bigger, faster and stronger because he added 25 points from 2017-18 to 2018-19 in the QMJHL. He still is working on his shot as he’s not the worlds greatest goal-scorer, but his playmaking abilities usually put him in good positions to find the back of the net. Other than just continuing to get stronger and gaining much needed experience in the pros, it’s tough to sit here and say there’s looming black holes in Veleno’s game, because, as I continue to beat a dead horse, he is probably the most complete prospect the Red Wings have.
What’s next for him?
For me it’s simple, I need to see Joe Veleno with the Red Wings at some point this year. That most likely will be in March after the trade deadline and when the team is, again, most likely, well out of the playoff race so Veleno can get some NHL experience before becoming a regular in 2020-21. He’s going to get a good look in training camp and in the preseason, but I’d be shocked if we don’t see him in Grand Rapids to start the year solely because he never got to play in the AHL at all last year. I’d almost rather give him a 30-40 game sample in the AHL where he can play top line minutes vs. 20/30 year-olds so he can adjust to the size and speed of pro hockey before seeing him with the Red Wings, but his ceiling is just so high I’m growing impatient and want him playing for Detroit on October 5th. Regardless of what I want, the smart move is letting him develop a bit in Grand Rapids and then to bring him up later in the year. It’s almost Veleno time in Detroit, and that is more than enough of a reason to be excited for the upcoming year.