After finishing up his Swedish Hockey league season with the Malmo Redhawks, Red Wings prospect Joe Veleno is heading back to North America to play with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Veleno had a solid season in the SHL, averaging .43 points per game (11 goals, 9 assists). While he hasn’t had quite the leap forward that Moritz Seider and Jonattan Berggren have had in Sweden, he’s continued to develop as a two-way center, improving his defensive skillset and playmaking abilities (go check out IceHockeyGifs fantastic highlights of his time in the SHL).
This will be Veleno’s second appearance as a Griffin. Last year, he had 11 goals and 12 assists in 54 games played – similar to his production in Sweden this year – clocking in at .425 points per game. So how long with Veleno’s second stint in Grand Rapids last? Should he make his debut in the Winged Wheel this season?
At this point – it’s a coinflip. Steve Yzerman, as usual, has been pretty secretive about his plans for Veleno this season, so any information about roster changes are pure speculation. Even in his post-trade deadline recap this afternoon, he was non committal to anything other than Veleno having to quarantine for a week prior to playing in Grand Rapids.
Currently, there’s a roadblock in Veleno’s path to the NHL this year: the offensive pipeline is a bit jammed up at the moment. The trade deadline didn’t free up much room on the offensive side of the roster – Anthony Mantha being the only offensive player moved at the deadline. Players farther along in their development (but not necessarily at the same skill level as Veleno) have filled gaps in the lineup. Evgeny Svechnikov and Givani Smith have both received chances on Detroit’s main roster as a result of injuries (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Fabbri), and will likely be the plugs that fill any future leaks on the roster. However, as long as players like Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen are on Detroit’s roster, there’s always a chance for a prospect to vie for a spot.
Veleno is going to have to continue or increase his production to find his way to Detroit. There are too many players ready for the main roster ahead of him – Taro Hirose, Smith and Svechnikov all have more experience as Red Wings. However, with the amount of talent he possesses, Veleno could very well will himself into a couple of games in Detroit near the very end of the season.