Stephane Veilleux played with a checking line early on, then moved up to play with Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay in his first preseason game with the Lightning against Atlanta Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Get used to that. Veilleux is.
If there’s one word to best describe Veilleux’s game it is versatility. He put up big numbers offensively in juniors, earned a spot with the Minnesota Wild in Jacques Lemaire’s defensive system on a shutdown line and is a first-call penalty killer.
“I’m looking forward to getting moved around, whether it’s with the skilled players or the tough guys,” said Veilleux, who can play both wings. “I think I can fit well in any position. When you can play with every type of player, that’s an advantage.”
The Lightning had that in mind when they signed Veilleux to a one-year deal as a free agent in July. Veilleux, 27, has good speed and good enough size (6-0, 190) to make an impact and had a career-high 13 goals last season, despite his defense-first role.
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet has been using Veilleux with several different linemates through training camp.
“We need energy guys,” Tocchet said. “We need guys that will continue the flow of the game. The first two lines have good shift, then you’re looking for that third and fourth line to continue the pressure, working hard and going to the net. … He can add that for us.”
Veilleux also impressed Tocchet in his stint with Tanguay and Lecavalier.
“He had some jump, he was hustling,” Tocchet said. “I thought he did a good job.”
Veilleux has produced in different ways throughout his career.
In the final season of his junior career in 2000-01, Veilleux had a remarkable season for Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec League. Veilleux had 48 goals and 115 points in 68 games and 33 points in 21 playoff games.
The Wild selected Veilleux in the third round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, 93rd overall, and he moved right into the lineup for the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League in 2001-02. Veilleux played 361 games in six seasons, the last four full-time, producing 43 goals and 47 assists for the Wild. He went from seven, to 11 to 13 goals his last three seasons.
Throughout his time with the Wild, Veilleux worked hard to fit in Lemaire’s defensive system. Lemaire stressed preparation and he soaked it all in. Veilleux is now commonly described as a two-way forward and he said he takes pride in that.
“When you are asked to play against tough lines night in and night out, you have to be focused,” Veilleux said.
Veilleux took on unrestricted free agency last summer with that same focus, exploring his many options. In the end, Veilleux decided to head south.
“You’re looking at teams and what their expectations are,” Veilleux said. “When I looked at this team, what kind of players they have, it didn’t make sense to me the season they had. It’s just little things. You know that it’s going to be a turn around.”
His adjustment to his new team, new city has been easy.
“It’s a really positive atmosphere,” he said. “That’s nice to see.”
Veilleux said he doesn’t have to change his game. He just expects to bring his work ethic and defensive reliability to the organization.
Still, he is determined to make a difference, become a factor with his new team, whether that is on a scoring line, a checking line or diving to block a shot killing a big power play.
“As a player, you’re always trying to bring another level to your game,” Veilleux said. “That’s how everything in life is. It’s a challenge. If you get an opportunity, you just have to go.”