| The Detroit News
Detroit — Joe Veleno is headed to Sweden to play this season.
The Red Wings’ center prospect — who was picked in the first round of the 2018 Entry Draft — has been loaned to Malmo, of the Swedish Elite League.
Veleno, 20, is expected to spend the entire season with Malmo.
Veleno had 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 54 games in Grand Rapids last season.
“I am excited about this opportunity. I certainly do not know much about the city and the team, but I am really looking forward to coming over and meeting my new teammates and becoming part of the team,” Veleno said in a press release on the Malmo team website. “I want to be able to contribute with my speed to make an impression right from the start.”
Patrik Sylvegård, the Malmo manager, was excited to get Veleno on the roster.
“We are happy that we get a player like Joe, who has a great future in the NHL,” Sylvegård said to the Malmo website. “The Red Wings, who own his rights, believe very much in him and see him as a top center for many years to come.
“After Christmas, he was the best center in Grand Rapids in the AHL.
“In Joe we get a strong skater who will be an offensive force for us, at the same time as he takes responsibility on the defensive (end).”
The Wings have been loaning prospects to European teams mainly because of the uncertainty surrounding the American League (AHL) for the upcoming season.
The AHL is a gate-driven minor league, and if fans will be not allowed into most arenas this winter, it’s highly unlikely there could be an AHL season.
The AHL had been targeting a Dec. 4 return, but that now seems unlikely.
Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, while talking with the media last week in a pre-draft interview, said the organization would not hesitate to loan players for a season-long basis considering the uncertain status of the AHL.
“We’re not opposed to our players going there and possibly playing there the entire season because there is uncertainty as to when or if the American League will start,” Yzerman said. “We’re not opposed to it. It might make sense for them to stay the year.”
Veleno joins Mathias Brome (Sweden), Filip Hronek (Czech Republic), Filip Larsson (Sweden), Gustav Lindstrom (Sweden), Jared McIsaac (Finland), Michael Rasmussen (Austria), Moritz Seider (Germany) and Filip Zadina (Czech Republic) as young Wings who are, or will be, playing in Europe.