He was back with the Wings at Wednesday’s morning skate after spending his second stint of the month with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he has thrived. Veleno, 22, started the season with the Griffins, then spent 31 games with the Wings before being sent to the Griffins during the NHL’s All-Star break. Veleno was recalled in early February, then reassigned when the Wings’ schedule slowed.
NEVER MISS ANY OF OUR RED WINGS COVERAGE: Take advantage of amazing limited-time deal
“Joe is in a spot in his maturity where he can handle going up and down a little bit,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When a young player comes over and they’re just starting to find their footing in the AHL, it’s hard to call them up and down. Joe has been around enough — this is his third year of pro hockey. He can handle going up and down. We don’t want it to be a roller coaster, but that’s part of the mental toughness it takes to be successful in this league.”
Entering Wednesday, Veleno had four goals, three assists and a minus-7 rating in 35 games with the Wings. He scored three goals in his first 13 games, including when the Wings were at Colorado Dec. 10, during a stretch when Veleno was either on the second or third line. From early January on, Veleno mostly filled the role of fourth-line center.
In his February stints with the Griffins, Veleno was used as a go-to guy and delivered four points his first two games and three points in the other two games. Overall, Veleno has 10 points in 11 games with the Griffins.
“Wherever he’s at, we want him to play meaningful minutes,” Blashill said. “We’d like him to be in position to try to thrive and not just survive. It’s not always a perfect world. There’s times where he may be needed, and he might not be ready to thrive, but I don’t necessarily think those aren’t meaningful minutes. There’s opportunity to learn lessons in both situations.
“He still has to learn how to do it right — how hard you have to compete to win puck battles, how you have to manage the puck, how you have to get pucks out and pucks in. Those are lessons that, regardless of if he’s playings lots or little, are critically important for him to learn. He can learn them here. On the reverse side when he’s down, I think he has opportunities to do a little bit more with the puck. He has opportunity on the power play, he doesn’t play on our power play, he’s killing penalties.”
Blashill said it’s a matter of “balancing what’s best for Joe Veleno and what’s best for the Detroit Red Wings. Sometimes those worlds collide but we try to do the best we can to make sure the development of the player is paramount.”
Veleno was drafted by former Wings general manager Ken Holland at No. 30 in 2018, using a first-round pick gained from that year’s trade-deadline deal involving Tomas Tatar. Veleno was billed as a playmaker and top-notch skater. Veleno played in the Swedish Hockey League in 2020-21, and looked strong in the five games he appeared in with the Wings at the end of last season.
Given he can be sent to the minors without waivers, the Wings like to exercise that flexibility in monitoring Veleno’s development.
“I think at the very least, we need Joe to become a really accountable player that can give you winning minutes,” Blashill said. “And then how much point production he can do while he does that is yet to be seen. I think he can be a guy on the power play. Can he make your power play better? That’s yet to be seen. I think he can be a penalty killer. Can he make your penalty kill better? That’s yet to be seen.
“Ultimately we need each one of our players to develop a two-way game so that we can win at the highest level here.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.