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

Opportunity is knocking, now it's all up to me

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 sixth blog entry of 'From the Q to the D.'

 

  • From the 'Q' to the 'D' - Entry 6


    by Joe Veleno

Hi everybody, it's hard to imagine the summer has flown by, but for me it was a good summer. I spent most of it in Detroit, just working out, skating and training, but I was also able to spend time with my friends and family, enjoying my time to relax and at the same time, I really enjoyed my summer training.

Staying in Detroit, I am starting to get a feel for the city. I've kind of explored a little bit throughout the summer and I'm getting to know more of the areas around here. Detroit seems like a really nice place and very welcoming. It's all been good. I went to go see a lot of sporting events. I've been pretty impressed with that, with all the sports they have in the city, how many fans they get, whether it's baseball or football or whatever the event is, they've got a pretty good fan base here. My family came down and they seemed to like it as well. It's a nice place to walk around. You get to see a lot of cool things you don't really see in Canada. I guess the culture is a little different.

I'm also starting to get the feeling about the Detroit fans. It was surprising so many fans recognized me at the World Junior Summer Showcase when I played for Team Canada in Plymouth this summer. Detroit fans take a lot of pride in their hockey team and I think the city as well. They're all behind the players and they're all excited to see all the new faces that are going to come up in the next couple of years. Obviously, I feel good about that and I'm looking forward to having a future in Detroit, having a career there. I am always glad to stop and give a couple fans some autographs or take pictures or whatever it is. They're always behind us so it's always good to give back.

I read Givani's blog where he talked about a lot of us prospects working out together this summer and he was right about that. We work out in the morning at Barwis. Our group is the prospect group. We're all starting to get familiar with each other and get closer together. After which, we go on the ice and skate together with some of the pro guys jumping on. But I guess that's our everyday life. We hang out with each other, we skate, we work out and that's pretty much it. There's nothing else really that we do besides focus on hockey and focus on getting better. It was really good to watch the pro guys this summer and get to know them a little bit. I see them at the gym and on the ice every once in a while. They pop in and out. The biggest thing, I think, is just learning from them. I see how hard they work and how much they put into it. Seeing how they approach the game and all that sort of thing. They're always looking to get better and I think that's a really good thing, especially now that they're going to be the veterans. There's a lot of younger (Red Wings) players there, I think they're doing a really good job of setting an example and setting a high standard of work ethic for us to see while we're on the ice and off the ice. I think for me, that's the biggest thing I've noticed is how hard they work, how much time they put into getting better.

Even though I was drafted last year by the Red Wings, I always knew I was going to go back to junior. This year as a pro, my dream (playing in the NHL) is just so close to becoming a reality that I must take advantage of every opportunity I'm given. Hopefully that day will come real soon and I'll be able to live that life, which I've dreamt of my whole life. I'm going to keep working hard to be able to play at that (NHL) level, to stay at that level and keep working hard, do whatever it takes. Hopefully it'll all pan out in the end.

As I head to the Prospect Tournament and training camp, confidence is super important. I want to go in not being too confident but being confident enough that I'm confident in what I'm doing and the way I'm playing. It's always a good quality to have as a hockey player, to be confident on the ice and not worrying about what other people are thinking of you or what other people are saying about you or whatever, that sort of thing. It's always good to be confident and that's definitely one quality of mine that I'm going to bring to camp, being confident on the ice, playing with confidence. I think having that, it'll go a long way down the road.

I also looked at Dylan Larkin as motivation. Larkin's a superstar right now. Even when he came to the league, he had a lot of hype around him and obviously lived up to that hype. You see it every once in a while, 18, 19-year-old players come into the league, but obviously it's rare. It's a men's game and you've got to really prove your spot on that team. I'm going to try to do that and try to make that roster this year. Like I said, I think I'm on the right track right now in doing that. I'm feeling confident and got stronger and getting better on the ice and willing to learn a lot of new things that I haven't seen before. So I mean, if I could become another Dylan Larkin, obviously I wouldn't mind that! It's good to have him around. I get to learn from him and if I ever needed to talk to him, if he had any pointers, I'm sure he'd be more than happy to kind of help me but also help other young players that are coming up.

We'll see what happens. Sometime players get caught up in a numbers game in the NHL. So, if I fail to earn a spot or the numbers just don't work out and I get sent down (to Grand Rapids), I'd still have the same mindset. I'd use it as motivation. Every time I'm on the ice, every time I'm playing a game, I want to be the best player out there and I guess, be the first one to get called up. That's what anyone would want. I just have to have that mindset and still be confident and not be disappointed but using it as motivation to kind of think I want to get back up there, I deserve to be up there. That's the only way I see it in my case. I only want to be a Detroit Red Wing.

 

In his final season playing junior hockey, Veleno excelled. In 59 games played for the Voltigeurs, he 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.

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

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