With the hockey world on pause because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is an opportunity to check in on Detroit Red Wings prospects.
This edition takes a look at forward Joe Veleno. The Wings drafted him at 30th overall in 2018, painting him as a top-notch playmaker and gifted skater.
He spent the 2018-19 season with Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, cramming 104 points into 59 games. This season was his first year of pro hockey; when the American Hockey League shut down, he had 11 goals and 12 assists in 54 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Like many young players, the jump from junior to pros has been a learning curve for Veleno, who turned 20 on Jan. 13. He had just started to look more like the player the Wings hoped they drafted when the season was postponed. Now he, along with his strength and conditioning program, are on hold. As part of the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, players have been told to stay home as much as possible. The Wings are trying to come up with alternate strength and conditioning routines.
Though Veleno looked better in the second half of the season, he projects to spend more time in the AHL learning how to be the two-way center the Wings want him to be.
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The Free Press spoke to Shawn Horcoff, the Wings’ director of player development, about Veleno’s progress.
“He’s had a really good second half of the year,” Horcoff said. “There’s been so much emphasis for him from the coaching side and the development side on his defensive game. He put a lot of hard work into that and he’s come a long way. He’s much more comfortable at that now. He’s playing big PK minutes, he’s on the ice at the end of the game — important minutes. So defensively we are really happy with his game.
“The problem is sometimes when you do that, it can affect the offensive side. It can take time to figure out how to play at both ends of the rink properly. For Joe, he really started to figure it out in the second half. The biggest thing I noticed is his skating. He is starting to separate himself down there, he’s starting to have confidence to move the puck through the neutral zone, drive wide on D. That’s going to be an asset for him as he gains more strength and maturity.”
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Veleno was quiet offensively with just three points his first 14 games. Then came a spurt with five points in four games in mid-November, after which he showed better consistency, recording nine points his last 16 games.
“For the offensive chances he is getting, his production should probably be even higher,” Horcoff said. “That’s a good sign. We know that part of the game is going to come for him.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.
Published at Wed, 25 Mar 2020 14:53:35 +0000