Center: Joseph Veleno
Joe Veleno is one of the few players who received Exceptional Status from the Canadian Hockey League, which allowed the Grand Rapids center to play in the CHL as a 15-year old.
Similar to many NHL prospects, the Detroit Red Wings willingly loaned Veleno to Malmö Redhawks of the SHL, where he’d find much-needed ice and playing time despite the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Redhawks, Veleno, similar to his first season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey league, has struggled to find his stride.
The 20-year old center has amassed six goals and 11 points in 21 games with the Redhawks.
The one time predominating center at the junior level has struggled to adapt to the professional level, which is beginning to be a bit worrisome. After recording a whopping 104 points in his final junior season with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league in just 59 games, it’s been a struggle since.
Last season with the Griffins, the highly touted center scored just 11 goals and 23 points in 54 games.
In today’s NHL, we expect a first-round pick to make an immediate impact at the NHL level. We forget that sometimes it takes a player time to find their game, and it takes time to adapt from being a junior player to a professional.
When former Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland selected Veleno with the second of the teams’ two first-round picks in 2018, I was thrilled. Veleno had originally been tabbed as a mid-round selection but fell to 30, right into the Red Wings lap.
At the time, Veleno had top-six forward potential at the NHL level. That may have slipped to top-nine, but I still have hope Veleno can right the ship and develop into an NHL second-line center. Veleno may just be a late-bloomer. I’d expect the young center to at least make a roster push heading into next season.
NHL ETA: 2022