Detroit Red Wings: It’s a make-or-break year for Joe Veleno

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I know it sounds unrealistic, but it already seems like a make-or-break year for Detroit Red Wings forward Joe Veleno.

Veleno, 23, has become a regular in Detroit’s lineup over the past two seasons, and while he’s shown improvement in some areas of his game from year-to-year, 2023-24 is shaping up to be a crucial season for the speedy center.

General manager Steve Yzerman has had a very productive off-season. The Detroit Red Wings from last season are vastly improved (on paper). The addition of star forward Alex DeBrincat is massive. Still, before making the blockbuster deal, Yzerman focused on adding a plethora of reliable depth to improve the core of this roster. Concentrating on the forwards, Detroit signed J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, Klim Kostin, and Christian Fischer. That group replaces Filip Zadina, who was granted his release, Pius Suter, and Alex Chiasson.

It is safe to say the Detroit Red Wings have their wheels off the ground and are finally starting to ascend following a very lengthy rebuild. I won’t go as far as team owner Chris Ilitch did prematurely concerning the Detroit Tigers a couple of years ago and say the rebuild is over, but the Detroit Red Wings rebuild is advancing at a swift pace.

It’s a make-or-break season for Detroit Red Wings center Joe Veleno.

That being said, a player like Veleno could find himself on the outside looking in as early as next season. Veleno is coming off a modest nine-goal, 20-point season in 81 games for the Detroit Red Wings. This followed an eight-goal, 15-point season a year ago over 66 games.

The former first-round pick has the build to play a more physical brand of hockey but tends to play below his weight class. He stands 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds. Veleno hasn’t been able to score consistently enough to warrant a spot in Detroit’s top nine, and if he’s going to stick around for the long haul, he needs to add another dimension to his game. Veleno went pointless for a 20-game stretch this past season from mid-February to the end of March. He also went goalless for 25 consecutive games.

Last year Veleno only won 42.5% of his faceoff opportunities and maintained a subpar Corsi For Percentage of 44.8%. His Relative Corsi For Percentage during even strength situations settled in at -2.1%, a career-worst, yet his 1.2 points per 60 minutes had been a career-best. Also, there was the whole ‘stomping’ incident that took place at the IIHF World Championship this past spring.

In my much too early opening night lineup prediction, I currently have Veleno penciled in as Detroit’s fourth-line center, but as I’ve mentioned, that is subject to change. When you start to dissect Detroit’s bottom four or five forwards, no one should feel comfortable.

The additions of Kostin and Fischer will likely make up two spots. Both bring size, grit, and scoring ability to the bottom six. Then you’ve got Jonatan Berggren, Daniel Sprong, and Robby Fabbri. Someone is going to begin the season as a healthy scratch, plus we haven’t even mentioned some of Detroit’s top prospects who will be chomping at the bit to start training camp.

What if Marco Kasper, Carter Mazur, or Elmer Soderblom win a roster spot? I am not ready to move on from Veleno, but as you can see, things are beginning to get a bit crowded.

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