Detroit — Joe Veleno certainly became bigger physically last season and the added strength helped him reach the NHL.
But at the same time, Veleno felt there was a drawback. For the strength Veleno picked up, he lost some speed.
“It affected my speed a bit,” Veleno said. “I was still pretty fast, but I just thought it was some weight I didn’t really need.”
So Veleno talked it over with Red Wings trainers as well as people he has worked with and trained with in Montreal, and went about shedding some of that extra weight.
Having played at as much as 210 pounds last season, Veleno is down to 203.
Veleno is hopeful the change will help him carve a lineup spot in the NHL, as he appears to be in a spirited battle for a Wings roster spot.
“The game has gotten a lot faster,” Veleno said. “I thought I was a little too heavy last year. I feel real good at the weight I’m at now. You have to be able to skate and make plays and I was working on that over the summer.”
New coach Derek Lalonde watched plenty of Veleno on video over the summer and had several conversations with the 2018 first-round draft pick (30th overall). What Lalonde would like to see is Veleno be tougher on the defensive side.
“He does make some plays in tight ice,” Lalonde said. “He thinks it very well, has a good feel for things.
“I just think it’s being harder (on where Veleno needs to improve). He would allow some extended offensive zone time (last season). He was in the right spot on the defensive side of the puck, playing maybe a little more cautious but playing on the right layer of the puck, but was allowing extended zone time.
“We’d like to see him go harder and get more kills in the defensive zone. That’s something that needs to evolve in his game, and that happens to a lot of guys, especially playing center. For a younger center in this league it’s hard to get stops, and he’s got to improve in that.”
Veleno, 22, played in 66 games and tallied eight goals and seven assists with the Wings after being recalled from Grand Rapids. Among the forwards competing for roster spots, Veleno is the lone player who is waiver exempt, meaning the Wings can send him to Grand Rapids without the danger of losing him to another team.
“I can improve on a lot of things, I’m still a young player,” Veleno said. “I still need to learn. The experience is going to come as I play more games.”
Raymond’s big night
Forward Lucas Raymond had a sort of breakthrough night against Chicago early last season, scoring three goals in a Wings victory at United Center.
Saturday’s game was a 3-0 exhibition victory by the Wings, but Raymond starred again, with a goal and two assists.
Lalonde has talked about the way Raymond has to refine and iron out parts of his game, which will allow Raymond to take another step in his career.
“You’ve produced offense, now he wants it to be a part of his game,” Lalonde said. “So all of the sudden, now you’re thinking offense, you’re leaning. Even the other night, he showed up in some of our negative clips where he was poaching offense, putting up holes in the other end of his game. So, it’s just evolving. That offense will come when you do things right. You don’t have to cheat that.
“It’s just these guys understanding what it is to do it right all the time, not just some of the time.”
Penguins at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Red Wings and Penguins face each other for the second time this preseason. Detroit won the first exhibition, 6-2, last week.