Red Wings’ Veleno Approaching Make-or-Break Season in 2023-24

The Hockey Writers

As one of six players to ever be given exceptional status by Hockey Canada, the expectations bestowed upon Joe Veleno have been more than he has been able to live up to this point of his NHL career. Since being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2018 Draft, he has failed to live up to the hype and expectations of a player given this status and has led to a make-or-break year in the 2023-24 season.

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Veleno’s NHL Career Has Been Underwhelming

As an exceptional status player in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Veleno played five seasons in the league but did not show off his full potential until after being drafted by Detroit in 2018. In his post-draft season with Drummondville, he was able to total 104 points with 42 goals and 62 assists. This gave the Red Wings organization hope that his play could make the transition to the NHL and that he could be a top-line player and goal scorer.

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Joseph Veleno, Detroit Red Wings, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But this has yet to come to fruition in parts of three seasons with Detroit, having only totaled 36 points with 18 goals and 18 assists in 152 NHL games since making his debut on April 27, 2022. Will all of that being said, the organization did extend Veleno this offseason to a one-year deal worth $850,000 as a restricted free agent (RFA).

Related: The Wings Scored on the Tomas Tatar Trade

The 2023-24 season is viewed by many as a make-or-break year for the 23-year-old forward to prove he can take the next step to being the player that the Red Wings were expecting to get when they drafted him. If Veleno can make a statement in training camp and at the beginning of the season, he could push for a top-six spot in the lineup. This would force the hand of head coach Derek Lalonde to shuffle the lines around to fit him in.

But if he is not able to do this and continues to play at the level he has since breaking into the NHL, it makes Veleno’s future with the Red Wings a question mark more than it is already. With the mix of additions to the forward corps the past few offseasons (Andrew Copp, Alex DeBrincat and JT Compher), he will be fighting to earn his way up the lineup. He has been buried on the depth chart the past two seasons, so this will be more of an uphill battle.

Joe Veleno Detroit Red Wings
Joe Veleno, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

One way he could give himself a future with the Red Wings is being able to turn himself into a situational specialist. He could work his way into becoming a faceoff type of guy, who is relied on in big situations. He could also become a penalty kill specialist that earns him extra special teams ice time. If his goal-scoring and offensive production do not start to pick up as hoped, Veleno may have to add an extra layer or two to his game.

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The Red Wings have also added a handful of prospects in their system who will be pushing for a center spot in the lineup in the coming years which could affect Veleno’s future. With Carter Mazur, Amadeus Lombardi, Nate Danielson and Marco Kasper all in the pool of prospects, he will have to really prove his worth in the 2023-24 season or he may be used as a trade chip. To say this season is make-or-break for him may be an understatement.

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