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NHL Draft

2018 Draft diary: Joe Veleno

Saint John center understands role, importance of being captain

by Joe Veleno / Special to NHL.com

Center Joe Veleno (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was the first player granted "exceptional status" to play as a 15-year-old in the league. He's in his third season with the Sea Dogs and has four points (one goal, three assists) in six games as captain this season. The 17-year-old native of Kirkland, Quebec, had 83 points (26 goals, 57 assists) in 107 games his first two seasons in the league. Veleno, who received an "A"-rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2018 NHL Draft, has offered to maintain a draft diary for NHL.com leading up to the draft in Dallas on June 22-23.

Hi there, hockey fans. 

After two full seasons with the Sea Dogs I'm now ready to begin the most important one of my career. It's certainly going to be a very different season than the previous one as we go through a rebuilding phase after winning the President Cup and competing for the Memorial Cup.

 

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We have a younger group this year, not so much experience, like we had last year, and not as much skill. It's going to be hard and every game we're going to have to compete much harder than we had to in the past, so we're going to have to give an extra effort there and hopefully we'll be a good team to compete against. 

I've been named captain and it's for one reason: to push this team in the right direction. It's always a special feeling to wear a 'C' on your jersey but at the same time it comes with a lot of responsibility. 

I'm aware that I'll need to carry the team during the key moments of a game. We have good players, but we don't have the same depth as last year. The guys work very hard and continue to learn. Everything is going to be a process, it won't just happen on its own. We no longer have the likes of Julien Gauthier (Carolina Hurricanes), Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators), Spencer Smallman (Carolina Hurricanes) and Mathieu Joseph (Tampa Bay Lightning).

I was named captain a couple of times when I was younger but right now it means more and you kind of understand more that role and the importance of wearing a 'C.' When you're younger, they just kind of give it to the best player. But now I understand you actually have to do something. You have to be a leader and act like a leader. 

I certainly learned a lot from [Smallman], who was our captain the past two seasons. He was an excellent leader and since he was my roommate, I really got to see how he carried himself off the ice. You have to set standards on the ice, in the dressing room and when you're away from the rink. I kind of learned a bit through him, as well as good leadership qualities from my parents, my family and my friends. 

This role will also allow me to be the link between my teammates and my new coach, Josh Dixon. He's a really nice guy and I talk to him a lot, and he comes to talk to me, asks me how I'm doing, and things that I need to work on and how I'm playing in the games. He's pretty vocal with me and pretty interactive with me, so I like it. 

What's interesting about him is that he used to be an agent at Pat Brisson's agency (CAA Sports), so he kind of knows how it is, knows what your body is feeling and how you're thinking. It's good for the whole team that our coach has that mindset. I think he's a really good fit for a younger team and he's teaching us a lot of new things on and off the ice. 

I'm not going to be affected by all these changes. It's going to be different but I'm trying not to think of it too much, and just focus on what I have to do and how I've always played in the past. It's not going to change for me. I'm just going to keep working hard. When you work hard, good things happen. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Talk to you next month.

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