Joe Veleno was drafted in the first-round, 30th overall by the Red Wings in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound center is one of four Red Wings' prospects writing a blog for our Taking Flight blog series, which chronicles the ups and downs of each player as they work their way to becoming Red Wings. Veleno currently plays for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Here is his fourth blog entry of, 'From the Q to the D.'
From the 'Q' to the 'D' - Entry 4
by Joe Veleno
Hi everybody, I hope you're enjoying the springtime, it's my favorite time of the year because it means it's playoff time and my team in Drummondville is doing pretty well. We are about to play Halifax in the third round/semi-finals and the guys are really focused on what we need to do to be successful. It's the second season, the playoffs. I don't look at it in terms of points in stepping up my game, it's my overall game. Every detail has to be pretty much perfect every time I'm on the ice to bring my all and my intensity level has to go up, my physicality has to go up, my offensive and defensive games have to go up, take it all to the next level. Playoffs is a whole different ballgame, teams are studying other players' tendencies and other teams' systems, so games get tighter, games get harder. When that happens, players have to find a way to step up and work hard to succeed on the ice.
The first round was a good round for all of us. We played a team that wasn't close to us, but you've got to give them (Gatineau) a lot of credit for their work ethic, they hung in there in every game with us. It wasn't easy. We learned in the first round you have to be more disciplined and stay out of the box as much as possible. In any league, special teams in the playoffs can hurt you and also win you some games, so that's the one thing we've got to do better at. Playoffs have always been a moment where I've always stepped up and I've always wanted to step up my game in every single situation and over the years, I've done a good job of that and this year is no different. Obviously, our final goal is to win a championship and the Memorial Cup and we're all leaning towards that this year.
We want to keep our game simple in the playoffs. We look at other teams' tendencies, their system to see what we can get out of that, but the goal is to play simple and play to our identity. We're a fast team and we want to play fast, we like to create a lot offensively, we don't want to take away from that, but Sherbrooke who we played in the second round was a team that finished just behind us, they're a young team but had a lot of skill and liked to play fast as well. So they were pretty dangerous in the offensive zone, we respected their speed, but we were able to play with speed, within our own identity, and when we do that we're a really good hockey team that is hard to beat. Sherbrooke is only 45 minutes away, it's a pretty decent rivalry, it was an emotional and big series for us.
As I said, we're playing Halifax next in the playoffs and Jared McIsaac, another Wings draft pick, plays for them, but despite hopefully being future Red Wings teammates, I really haven't followed him or contacted him, especially this time of year. Right now, I'm focusing on myself, my teammates and my team. Playing hockey as of late, I haven't been in contact with any of the guys who are also part of the Red Wings organization. Jared is a really good kid, I've known him for a while now with all the hockey-related events, the draft, the combine and obviously playing against him in our league for quite some time now. Their team has taken care of certain things and so have we. Right now we're focused on trying to win some playoff games.
It doesn't seem like it was almost a year ago that I was drafted by the Red Wings. Being part of the Red Wings has really influenced my game, not in the sense of getting a lot of points but in playing the game the right way, focusing on little things that will be important at the next level, because I think everyone that watches me play, even Detroit, they would notice that the skill is only as good if you work hard and that's when your skill makes plays by working hard. The biggest influence on me after I was drafted by the Wings is in learning to play the game the right way and be good in my defensive zone - being back on top, backchecking, playing on the other end of the puck. That's where I've noticed a big change in my game when Shawn Horcoff and Dan Cleary would tell me things, would correct my mistakes and I would take that in perspective and apply those things.
My plus-63 in the regular season reflects my commitment to becoming a two-way player. That was my biggest thing entering this season because going pro, no question everyone has to play defense, play in their own zone no matter how many points you can put up. I think every team needs that and every player must play that way, just not focus on putting up points. In my case, I want to be as good as I can be in the offensive zone as I can be in the defensive zone. That's one thing I took into perspective this year is to really develop and learn as much as I can in the defensive area of the game.
Now, I didn't forget about improving my offensive game! A majority of the year was really good, I was really happy reaching that 100-point mark as it was one of my goals this year. Plus, the team had a lot of success. With Drummondville, I gained a lot of good memories playing with my teammates and I think overall my year was relatively successful. Obviously it would have been nice to win a gold medal at the world juniors, but that experience was really nice, but it's playoffs and now it's time to go and try and win a championship. That would really put the cherry on the sundae.
I really didn't think about 100 points too much, as I said it was a goal of mine, I just tried to play my game and focus on developing the areas I needed to get there. Once I started to do that, to learn to play better in my own zone, to play the game the right way like I am supposed to, that's when I saw my skill take over at the same time. I was able to create a lot of chances and get those points. I still need to learn a lot of new things to get to the pro level. Hopefully one day if I ever make the NHL, that will be another goal of mine, to get 100 points, it would be pretty astonishing.
Before I go, I wanted to say something about Ted Lindsay. I heard a lot about Mr. Lindsay being a really important piece in the Red Wings organization, he was a face of the franchise, he's an important role model to a lot of players and young kids growing up in the hockey world. During development camp I was able to introduce myself to Mr. Lindsay and he introduced himself as well. We were able to exchange a few words and it was nothing big, just a normal conversation and to be able to grab a picture with him is a really nice gesture on his part and to post it on social media, it was a real nice memory I'll keep for a very long time, to have a picture with Ted Lindsay. Everybody knows who he is, a first-class gentleman. I am really glad I was able to meet him and spend some time with him.
In 59 games played for the Voltigeurs this season, Veleno led his team in scoring with 104 points with 42 goals and 62 assists. He was plus-63, and notched six power-play goals, seven shorthanded goals and eight game-winning goals.
Thus far in 10 playoff games, Veleno has netted six goals and doled out six assists. He's plus-8 with two power-play goals and two game-winning goals.