The Detroit Red Wings have signed one of their top prospects, inking Joe Veleno to a three-year entry-level contract. Veleno’s Drummondville Voltigeurs were recently knocked out of the QMJHL playoffs.
Heading into the 2017-18 season some believed that Veleno was a potential top-five pick in the 2018 draft, given his standing as the first player in QMJHL history to be granted exceptional status, allowing him to join the league a year early like John Tavares, Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad and Sean Day did in the OHL. Still, there was some concern given the fact that he hadn’t yet dominated the league. Those fears were anything but allayed when Veleno got off to a rather pedestrian start with the Saint John Sea Dogs, scoring just six goals and 31 points in his first 31 games of the season. The star center looked disinterested at times, but seemed to really pick up his game after a midseason trade to Drummondville. Veleno finished his draft season with 79 points in 64 games, still a disappointing output for a player who was vying for a top draft slot.
So, when the draft rolled around in June there was plenty of mystery surrounding Veleno. It wasn’t clear where he would end up, and as the first round went on his name continued to fall. It wouldn’t be until the 30th selection and the Red Wings’ second pick—acquired as part of the Tomas Tatar trade—that Veleno would hear his name called.
This season though, in a year where he had the chance to prove his doubters wrong, Veleno has excelled. The two-way center recorded 42 goals and 104 points in 59 games, good enough for fourth in the QMJHL, and finished with a +63 rating. He showed exactly the kind of progression that the Red Wings had hoped for, and will head into training camp this summer trying to earn a job with the NHL team.