Joseph Veleno, the first player from Quebec to be granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada, was selected by the Saint John Sea Dogs with the first pick of the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Draft on Saturday.
Hockey Canada had announced Thursday a reversal of an earlier decision that allowed Veleno, a center who turned 15 in January, to enter the QMJHL draft a year earlier than other eligible players.
Listed at 6-foot, 168 pounds, Veleno had 16 goals and 52 points in 41 games for the Lac St-Louis Lions of the Quebec Midget AAA Hockey League this season. He also was second on Team Quebec at the Canada Winter Games with 10 points in six games.
"I'm really excited," Veleno told the Saint John website Saturday. "It's a feeling you can't describe. I'm trying to make the most of it."
Veleno is the fifth player to receive exceptional player status, joining John Tavares (2005), Aaron Ekblad (2011), Connor McDavid (2012) and Sean Day (2013). Tavares was picked by the New York Islanders with the first selection of the 2009 NHL Draft; Ekblad was taken No. 1 by the Florida Panthers at the 2014 draft; McDavid is expected to go No. 1 at the 2015 draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. Day, a defenseman with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League, is eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft; he had 10 goals and 36 points in 61 games this season.
Veleno is eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.
"We are very excited about this day and what it means to our team, our fans, our organization and our league," Sea Dogs general manager Darrell Young said. "This is an historical day and we are so pleased to be a part of it. We are extremely happy to select Joseph Veleno and welcome him and his family into the Sea Dog family."