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Taking Flight - From the 'Q' to the 'D'

My career in junior hockey was a tremendous experience, but it's time to focus on becoming a Red Wing

by Joe Veleno @jveleno91 / Special to DetroitRedWings.com

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. During the 2018-19 season, Veleno played for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Here is his fifth blog entry of, 'From the Q to the D.'

 

  • From the 'Q' to the 'D' - Entry 5


    by Joe Veleno

Hi everybody, this is my first blog entry as an official member of the Detroit Red Wings organization and I'm pretty excited. But before I completely turn the page on my junior hockey career I really want to look back for a final time at what junior hockey has provided for me. To be honest, it felt like it was pretty short actually. I've been in the league for four years and I thought it went by pretty quick. It just proves how major juniors is such a fun time, it's probably the best time in my hockey career. I had a lot of fun being a part of two teams and having Team Canada experiences every year with the U17, U18 and U20 teams. There wasn't much to ask for. I was part of two high-end organizations in Drummondville and St. John and I got the opportunity to go far in the playoffs pretty much all my years so I couldn't have asked for a better junior career.

I think it was a good year. Obviously, it wasn't the result that we wanted but I think we made a pretty good run. We lost against a team who made it to the Memorial Cup finals and they deserved to be there. It was a good journey this year, I really learned a lot from the coaching staff, from the players I played with, the experiences I had at the World Juniors. The whole year, I think it was overall a really great opportunity. It also wasn't very easy. As I mentioned in previous blogs, there was a lot of things going on and I really didn't know how to handle it. It was the first time kind of being in that situation (a first round NHL draft pick and a marked man). I just tried to stay composed, stay calm, not worry too much about what was going on on the outside. I knew I had all these people who were supporting me, they were all there to help me get better and become a better person.

There wasn't anything really in particular that caught my mind. I knew already a little bit of the situation I was being put into because of the exceptional status I received at 15. Like I said, I just tried to stay in the moment, stay composed and take every day one by one. I didn't think too much ahead about what was going to happen or anything.

I definitely drew a little bit of tears in Halifax when we lost in Game 6. It was a crazy journey that I was brought into. I don't know, I've just been through too much. It's been a crazy ride going through juniors with all the good memories that are going to last forever. Now I'm turning pro, it's a whole different adventure, a whole different future and I'm looking forward to it.

During the playoffs there were talks going on that the Red Wings were ready to sign me and they approached my agent and me, saying they wanted to work a deal out. Obviously, I was all ears to that. We worked out the best possible contract for both sides. When they approached me, I wasn't really too focused on that. We were in the playoffs and I was focused on helping my team out and being with my team for my last season. Afterwards, once it was all over, I gave my agent a call and the Detroit organization worked out a deal for both sides.

When I signed my contract it was when we were emptying out our hockey bags the next day in Drummondville. I went to the rink and packed all my things and I guess before leaving, my coaches were there and my contract was all ready to be signed. I had gone into our general manager's office and I signed it there, my family obviously was aware of it though - family, friends, my agent - everyone was aware of it. It was just a question of time, of actually signing the papers and that was it.

The first thing I did after I signed was I stayed in Drummondville, we had our end-of-the-year kind of gathering, a barbecue, so I hung out with the guys and the coaching staff was there. I got home the next day and I went out for dinner with my family, my friends, we just had a good time, celebrating the season and the end of my junior career and obviously the beginning of a new chapter.

I know that I still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Signing a contract is just part of the process. There is plenty left to accomplish but I'm making sure to work hard this summer to make sure I'm ready for next year and be ready for Training Camp when it comes. I think I need to get physically stronger in certain areas of my body and be a student of the game and keep learning things I can improve on. I think once I get better at those attributes, then I think my chances become a lot better. I've decided to spend my summer in Detroit in July and August after Development Camp, to work out there. I'm dedicating my summer to be ready for the year and I'm going to do whatever it takes to earn a spot next year in Detroit.

Nowadays in the NHL, no matter how offensive you are, you've still got to be responsible and play in your own end. I think playing defense is probably the most important thing in the NHL right now. Every player has to play defense. I guess in my case, I want to be a player who can provide offense and obviously be responsible in my own zone, who the coach can trust me on the ice every time I'm out there. That's the whole plan is to become a real responsible 200-foot player who can provide in both areas of the ice.

Since I signed my contract I have been asked two things. Have you met Steve Yzerman and have I spent any of my bonus money?

I haven't had a chance to meet Steve Yzerman. For sure when I get to Detroit, I would love to meet him when I get there and have the opportunity to speak with him and everything. And to be honest, I haven't actually spent or touched any of that money. It's not the kind of personality I have, I don't really need anything right now so there's no point in spending it, in my opinion.

It'd be nice maybe to buy some clothes and a couple, I guess, high-end brand names but to me, it's not really that important. I know that next year regardless, I have to wear a lot of suits and everything so I'll probably go shop a little for that, but right now my focus is on becoming a Detroit Red Wing.

 

In 59 games played for the Voltigeurs this season, Veleno lead 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.

Veleno played in all 16 of Drummondville's playoff games, he netted eight goals and doled out nine assists. He was a plus-7 with three power play goals and three game winning goals.

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