By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2019-20 season for the Detroit Red Wings' prospects. Twice a week during the offseason, By the Numbers Prospects will profile a different player in the system, focusing on his statistical highs. This week we focus on center Joe Veleno.
Despite the abrupt interruption to his first professional season when the AHL suspended play March 12, overall it has been a pretty great one for center Joe Veleno in so many ways.
It started with Veleno helping the Wings win the annual NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City for just the second time in the history of the event, defeating the Dallas Stars, 6-5, in the championship game.
Although Veleno did not make the Red Wings out of camp, he achieved pretty much everything else he could have possibly imagined for his first year as a professional.
Thanks to qualifying for exceptional status as a 15-year-old so he could play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Veleno was able to play for the American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins this past season as a 19-year-old.
In addition, Veleno played a major role for Team Canada as he and his teammates earned the gold medal at the 2020 Ice Hockey World Junior Championship in Czech Republic. They defeated Team Russia, 4-3.
Fellow Wings prospect Jared McIsaac was also on that gold medal-winning team.
Upon his return from the world junior championship, Veleno had even more confidence and was able to translate that into more production and a better all-around performance.
With an extended summer, Veleno will have a great opportunity to gain strength as he will fight to earn a spot with the Wings after the next training camp and preseason.
8 -- During the NHL Prospect Tournament, Veleno tied Ryan Kuffner (3-5-8) for the tournament lead in points with eight (7-1-8). He had two goals in the third period of the championship game.
54 -- Veleno played 54 games for the Griffins this season. Only forwards Dominic Turgeon (63), Turner Elson (61), Chase Pearson (59) and Chris Terry (57) played more.
11 -- With 11 goals, Veleno was tied with Evgeny Svechnikov for third on the team in that category. Terry led the team with 21 and Matt Puempel was second with 17.
12 -- Veleno also chipped in 12 assists this season. Terry was also the team leader in this category with 30.
23 -- Veleno and Turgeon both had 23 points for the Griffins. Terry was first with 51; Puempel was second with 39; captain Matthew Ford, Taro Hirose and Joe Hicketts each had 27; Svechnikov had 25. 9 - In his last 16 games with the Griffins from Feb. 5-March 11, Veleno had nine points (5-4-9).
107 -- Veleno was fifth on the Griffins with 107 shots, the only rookie on the team with more than 100. Terry led with 156, Puempel was second with 142, Hicketts was third with 116 and Svechnikov was fourth with 108.
-25 -- Veleno was primarily an offensive player during his time in junior hockey and the Wings worked with him to help round out his two-way game, which remains a work in progress. Veleno finished minus-25, which was the worst on the Griffins. Elson led the team at plus-8.
6 -- Veleno appeared in six games for Team Canada during the 2020 2020 Ice Hockey World Junior Championship. He also had six points (1-5-6) during the tournament. During the preseason, Veleno played in six games for the Red Wings.
3 -- In the six preseason games Veleno played for Detroit in September, he recorded three assists.
Quotable: "I think Joe's a little bit like (Moritz) Seider in the fact that when Joe came back from the world juniors, I think his game really took off. We spent a lot of time with Joe obviously working on his defensive game. Not taking away from his offensive game, because that was something that came really natural to him, but we want to turn Joe into a 200-foot player, a guy that we can rely upon, a centerman that we can rely upon to play against other teams' top lines, to create offense for us, play PK, play power play. That's really what he's turned into. I saw in Grand Rapids the last four games live in person and I think to come through those games at the end of games, in tight games, he's on the ice in the last minute, that's a big step for a player like Joe Veleno. He's protecting leads, he's never really played in that situation before and he's getting those important minutes down there. It's really something that will help speed his growth curve.
"We're happy with him, his production, it's not overwhelming but it's still solid. I think if you look at it in the last second half, it's been better. It doesn't really actually, more importantly if you look at the numbers, his offensive chances that he's creating, not just for himself but other players, those have really, really gone through the roof in the second half this season. He probably should be producing actually at a little higher level, if he had a little more puck luck he'd have more points. It's not something that we're all that worried about. The numbers aren't something that we really look at. The chances created is a bigger thing for us because we know with Joe, once he puts on more strength, he's going to become faster, his skating's going to improve because he's a good, natural skater. He's going to be better in those 50-50 battles, his shot's going to improve, he's going to handle himself better in traffic, he's going to be better in front of the net, he's going to be able to get to loose pucks better. All that stuff that he's getting to now, just that added strength, he's going to come out on top of most of those things from now on. We're happy with Joe, we're happy with where he's at. It's going to be a big offseason for him. But his progress this year has been really on track with what we expected it to be and wanted it to be." - Shawn Horcoff, director of player development and assistant director of player personnel