Joseph Veleno (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) of Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the first player granted exceptional status to play as a 15-year-old in the league. He's in his third season in the QMJHL. Veleno had 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 31 games as captain with Saint John before being traded to Drummondville on Dec. 19. He has 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 24 games with Drummondville.
Veleno, No. 13 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters, has offered to maintain a draft diary for NHL.com leading up to the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23.
Since my last diary, I had the opportunity to put my cold-weather gear on and go play outdoors in the QMJHL Winter Classic on February 9-10. We won against Sherbrooke before losing to Victoriaville while the snow fell.
Taking part in this event together was an opportunity to build bonds with the rest of the guys. Everyone was very excited and we couldn't stop talking about what was coming. It was a really good experience; not too many teams get the chance to play outside. Those are memories that will last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the loss to Victoriaville was the first of five straight losses. I don't have any explanation for that losing streak. We had trouble scoring some goals and I thought a lot of us were frustrated. We weren't playing to our strengths. We were playing a little soft and we know that's not our game. We're a team that likes to play hard and aggressive, and that's not what we did.
We also lacked a little energy, we tired quickly during those games. Our coach, Dominique Ducharme, gave us a couple of days off to rest. We ended up bouncing back by winning two of our three games in three nights on our trip to the Maritimes, the last of which was a 7-1 victory in Halifax against one of the top teams in the league.
It was a really good test for us in Halifax. To go there at the end of a long trip and really give it to them gave us a lot of confidence and a good energy boost for the end of the season. There are nine games remaining in the regular season and we are fifth overall.
Obviously, we want to rack up as many wins as possible down that last stretch. We want to finish as high as possible. Home-ice advantage helps a lot. The more games you play at home, the less you have to travel, and we know that no matter which team we face in the first round, it will be a challenge.
This year, everyone noticed there's so many strong teams and so many teams that kind of go for it. It's going to be an interesting playoff run for every team.
For my part, I had a really good stretch a few weeks after I joined Drummondville (30 points in 14 games). I wasn't worried about my production in Saint John, I knew the points would come. No matter what happened, I kept on working hard and didn't get frustrated; I stayed positive.
Certainly, playing in Drummondville and playing with really good players in a good system with good coaches, that helped me a lot. Everything seems to be falling into place right now and I hope it will continue into the spring.
Until then, here's hoping you enjoy the rest of the season and the playoffs!